The NHL lockout has been in effect for more than three months now, and so, with no actual games to report on, we’re going to link to a different hockey video every day until a new CBA is reached. Today: how Eric Lindros almost became a Ranger in 1992.
When he was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques in 1991, Eric Lindros was seen as the NHL’s next great superstar — the type of talented prospect that a franchise could build around for years to come. But Lindros refused to play for Quebec, and one year later, at the 1992 Draft, he was traded in one of the more bizarre episodes in league history.
The complete story of that ordeal — which eventually resulted in Lindros going to the Flyers — can be seen in the TSN program below. But in short: The Nordiques worked out a deal with Philadelphia, but then kept negotiating and agreed to a trade with the Rangers. Two teams believed they’d acquired the rights to No. 88, and the matter was eventually settled by an arbitrator, who ruled in favor of the Flyers. (Keep an eye out for the arbitrator’s last name, which should be well-known to hockey fans.)
The Lindros saga had a big effect on multiple franchises: The Flyers built their team around the center and reached a Stanley Cup Final with him, but never won a title. The Nordiques, meanwhile, landed a prospect named Peter Forsberg in the trade, and he’d become one of the great players of the era, winning two Cups after the team moved to Colorado.
Rangers fans, meanwhile, can look back on the trade that wasn’t: GM Neil Smith would have reportedly sent Tony Amonte, Alexei Kovalev, Doug Weight, and John Vanbiesbrouck — plus three first round draft picks and $12 million cash — to Quebec in exchange for Lindros. It’s impossible to know exactly how things would have played out with Lindros in New York in the mid-nineties, but the trade would have included players who directly or indirectly contributed to the 1994 title team, not to mention the draft picks and cash. Kovalev, of course, was a member of that ’94 Cup team, while Weight was shipped to Edmonton for Esa Tikkanen and Amonte was traded to Chicago in the deal that brought playoff hero Stephane Matteau to New York.
A quick aside about that last trade: In Tim Sullivan’s book on the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, Neil Smith talks about how head coach Mike Keenan hated Amonte and loved Matteau. Here’s Smith, from Sullivan’s book:
“Anyhow, Steph was in Chicago, and the deadline was close, and they were looking to deal him. Chicago wanted Amonte, and there was just no fucking way I was doing that deal straight up, Stephane for Amonte. No way. I had to get more than Matteau. So, I took Noonan, and that’s still a horseshit trade. I mean, we won games, and everything is okay when you win, and they helped us win, but Matteau and Noonan for Amonte? It was a horseshit trade. From a GM standpoint, it was just bad. But it did help us.”
Anyway, on Day 102 of the NHL lockout, here’s everything you need to know about the early nineties Eric Lindros trade drama.