Eric Lindros was the obvious choice for the first selection in the 1991 NHL Entry draft. No player had dominated the Canadian junior hockey scene like Lindros had since the days of Mario Lemieux, or Wayne Gretzky before him, or Bobby Orr before him.
The only problem was the Quebec Nordiques held that coveted selection. Lindros made it quite clear that he did not want to play for the Nordiques, as he did not like their ownership and management groups. Critics suggested he was just a greedy kid who knew he could make more money if he played in the United States. Plus the team was downright awful, the tax laws were unforgiving, and his endorsement potential would be little in a small French town. Despite many lucrative trade offers, the Nords took Lindros first overall. Lindros refused to put the jersey on at the proceedings.
The Nords tried to sign Lindros. They reportedly offered over $50 million over 10 years, to which Lindros responded "If they offered me $100 million, I would not play for them." Clearly it wasn't a money issue for the Big E, who shocked many by turning down such a lucrative contract. "They don't want to win. I don't think everyone in their organization has the same goal: winning the Stanley Cup."
It was obvious that it would not be in the cards. The entire season elapsed before anything would be done to resolve the situation. During that season Lindros played mostly for the Canadian National team. He started the year in the Canada Cup, where he physically dominated NHL competition. He had memorable hits on Joel Otto, Martin Rucinsky and Ulf Sameulsson. He definitely did not look out of place, despite being only 18 years old, and the only non-NHLer to ever represent Canada at that tournament. Lindros also represented Canada the World Junior championships, and the Olympics, where he helped Canada win a silver medal.
Quebec finally dealt Lindros a year after drafting him. Actually, just to complicate the soap opera even more, they traded him twice. They had reached agreements with both the Flyers and the New York Rangers. The Flyers felt an agreement was made, only to have Quebec then go to New York and see if they would up the ante any. They did, and Quebec then agreed to trade Lindros to the Rangers. The Flyers cried foul. The NHL had to call in an arbitrator to settle the dispute. Finally, arbitrator Larry Bertuzzi concluded the deal first reached with Philadelphia was a legally binding agreement.
The Nordiques received defensemen Kerry Huffman and Steve Duchesne, goalie Ron Hextall, forwards Mike Ricci, Chris Simon, and Peter Forsberg, draft picks and cash reportedly in the neighborhood of $10 million US. By the way, the Rangers offer reportedly consisted of Alexei Kovalev, Tony Amonte, Doug Weight, John Vanbiesbrouck, cash and draft picks. Either way, the deal was a blockbuster of the most ridiculous of proportions! In fact even at the time of the deal it looked like the Nords got more for the soon to be rookie Lindros than the Oilers had gotten for trading Wayne Gretzky in his prime.
Lindros was every bit as good as advertised, though injuries plagued him nearly as much as his critics. The Nordiques hit the jackpot with their return, especially in the form of Peter Forsberg. But the city would lose the team to Colorado. The following year the newly renamed Avalanche landed Patrick Roy from Montreal - something that would never have happened had the team stayed in Quebec - and won the Stanley Cup!