On the eve of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal, Ottawa Senators fans know that their franchise is about to change forever. In all likelihood, GM Bryan Murray is less than 24 hours away from making a trade that will severely alter the dynamic of our hockey team. Dany Heatley will be shipped out of the capital city, per his request. I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the transactions over the course of the modern day Senators history and their impact on the franchise. The impending Heatley trade will no doubt be in this list somewhere by this weekend. Here are my picks in order:
10. 7/15/94 Randy Cunneyworth signs as a free agent
Okay, so this is a mild start. Let us not forget, though, that when we first made the playoffs in 1996-97, it was Cunney that wore the 'C' in Ottawa. He was one of the leaders of this team when we went from laughing stock to model franchise.
9. 11/27/96 Ottawa trades the rights to Pavol Demitra to St. Louis for Christer Olsson
In our defense, Demitra was holding out that fall and wanted nothing to do with what at the time was a brutal team. Little did he know, Randy Cunneyworth would get us into the playoffs, right, mates? Olsson managed 5 points in 25 career NHL games. Demitra is slightly better and would have been a force in those playoff matchups with Toronto.
8. 7/10/06 Ottawa trades Martin Havlat and Bryan Smolinski to Chicago for Tom Preissing, Josh Hennessy, Michael Barinka, and a 2nd round pick in 2008 (Patrick Wiercioch).
Tough call here because Havlat's contract demands were higher than we could afford in the early cap years. But we got fleeced in this one. The only silver lining right now is Wiercioch as a solid blue-liner in a few years. Otherwise, this was the last time that Ottawa formally had a second line winger. Secondary scoring has been an issue ever since Havlat left town.
7. 6/18/99 Ottawa trades Ted Donato and Anti-Jussi Niemi to Anaheim for Patrick Lalime.
I'm going to give Patty some props for being arguably the best goalie we've had in Ottawa (not counting the guy in #6, but don't read ahead). Unfortunately, Lalime will never be remembered too kindly in Ottawa as he made a regular habit of not beating Toronto in the playoffs. Lalime got a bit of a rough deal in that it was usually our offence that couldn't get pucks past guys like Joseph and Belfour. After giving up three goals in the first period in 2004, including two absolutely brutal ones to Joe Nieuwendyk, Lalime was traded on 6/27/04 to St. Louis for a 4th round pick, who turned out to be sometimes-touted prospect Ilja Zubov. I also forgot to mention that in the year we acquired Lalime, we also moved Tugnutt and Laukkanen on 3/14/00 at the deadline for supposed playoff warrior Tom Barasso, fresh off his two Cups in Pittsburgh. I always liked Tugger better.
6. 7/6/04 Ottawa signs Dominik Hasek
Hard to call this an impact signing because he never played the whole season, but a lot came from this. For starters, it was the first time ever that we had a legitimate 'elite' goaltender, a Hall of Famer. He played lights out for us, too. He also allowed us to see that we had some talent in our hot-headed backup, Ray Emery, who was shown to his spot in the crease in March and April before we were bounced by Buffalo in the playoffs.
5. 6/26/93 Ottawa drafts Alexandre Daigle first overall, leaving Chris Pronger to be picked second by Hartford.
I don't want to turn this into a 'we should have drafted that guy' article, but this one stands out as one of the most catastrophic disasters in pro sports. Daigle was a bust and Pronger still stands as one of the most feared defencemen in the league and has a Stanley Cup to his name. Daigle was traded on 1/17/98 to Philadelphia for Vinny Prospal (I think we called him Vaclav back then), Pat Falloon, and a 2nd round pick, which turned into wunderkind Chris Bala. The only reason this blunder isn't higher on the list is because even Pronger couldn't have helped Ottawa in the early 90's.
4. 1/23/96 Ottawa trades Don Beaupre, Martin Straka, and Bryan Berard to the NY Islanders for Wade Redden and Damian Rhodes
Berard, another holdout, refused to play in Ottawa after being picked first overall. No worries, let's just swap with the second overall pick and also get some goalie that was known better for his girlfriend than his on-ice performance. Say what you want about losing Straka, because Wade Redden was an elite defenceman for most of his career in Ottawa. Like a few others, he'll be remembered for his last season, which sucks, but he was a pivotal player for us for a very, very long time. Ironically, we made sure Berard didn't amount to much. Boooooooo.
3. 8/23/05 Ottawa trades Marian Hossa and Greg DeVries to Atlanta for Dany Heatley
So Muckler, the shrewd bastard that he is, puts on his thick-rimmed glasses and signs Hossa to a 3-year extension on the morning of his arbitration hearing. But the joke was on Hossa as he was sent off and we picked up one of the most prolific goal scorers of the decade, and the best goal scorer in Ottawa history. Hossa had always been criticized for his poor playoff record. Those feelings were validated when Heatley helped us reach the Stanley Cup Finals in his second year in Ottawa (disregard that Hossa has played in the Finals the last two years). In terms of magnitude of talent going both ways, this is one of the biggest trades in all of hockey in recent memory. Heatley helped give the Sens some Canadian content and we all watched love blossom between him and Jason Spezza, one of the most lethal tandems in the league.
2. 6/23/01 Ottawa trades Alexei Yashin to the NY Islanders for Bill Muckalt, Zdeno Chara, and their first round pick (second overal), who turned out to be some goofball named Jason Spezza.
Arguably the most lopsided transaction in sports history. In terms of trades, nothing has shaped our franchise more than this one. We moved our most disgruntled employee (I tallied 5 contract battles in his tenure) for a great draft pick and some tall oaf that couldn't skate. Chara just won the Norris Trophy and Spezza is a 100-point centre making $7M a year. Yashin was bought out and now plays in Russia while the Isles continue to send cheques.
1. 6/28/94 Ottawa drafts Daniel Alfredsson in the 6th round of the NHL Entry Draft, 133rd overall.
Nobody, and I mean nobody, has done more or meant more to this franchise than Daniel Alfredsson. He exemplifies everything that we are passionate about in Ottawa Senators hockey. In reading through this list and seeing the holdouts like Berard and Demitra, and the trade demands in Yashin and Heatley (and Corvo, Preissin, Schaefer, Nicholat, Nikulin...), it gives you goosebumps to know that we have a guy like Alfie as our captain. He has quietly gone about his business for over a decade, taking paycuts to fit in salaries, signing lifetime contracts, and telling us that he wants to stay in Ottawa after his playing career is over. He is one of the best all-around players in all of hockey and he loves playing for the Ottawa Senators. That, my friends, makes his draft choice the most important trasaction in the history of this franchise.
So, any ommissions? I left out things like the Eaves/Corvo trade, the Emery buyout, etc. Also, where will Friday's Heatley trade rank in this list? And one more time, don't you just love Daniel Alfredsson?!?!