Bruins continue to reap rewards of Cam Neely trade with Canucks 25 years later

We’ve already discussed the fact that the Boston Bruins own a substantial all-time edge over the Vancouver Canucks on the ice. That historical domination extends beyond win-loss records, though, as the Bruins front office scored an enormous victory over Canucks management in the Cam Neely trade.

Even after 25 years, the Bruins franchise continues to benefit from the aftershocks of that earth-shaking trade. It is also safe to assume that many Canucks fans look at the day the move was made (June 6, 1986) as one of the darkest days in the franchise’s history and surely one of the NHL’s most lopsided deals.

Let’s take a look at the initial terms of the trade first.

Vancouver received: Barry Pederson

Pederson began his career on fire. He produced 92 points in his first full season (1981-82), 107 in 82-83 and 116 in 83-84. His final two seasons with Boston raised some red flags, though; he only played in 22 games in 84-85 but bounced back a bit in 85-86 with 76 points in 79 games. He played some solid hockey for Vancouver in his first two seasons (76 points in 86-87, 71 in 87-88) but injuries wrecked the rest of his career. He ended up scoring 197 points in 233 games for the Canucks, getting traded to Pittsburgh on January 8, 1990.

Boston received: Cam Neely and the Canucks’ first round pick in 1995 (Glen Wesley)

To be fair to Vancouver, there’s at least a slight chance Neely might not have flourished as a Canucks forward. He never scored more than 39 points or 21 goals in his first three seasons in Vancouver. Of course, he turned 21 on the day of that trade, so the Canucks management might have been a teeny bit hasty with that move. You’d think that Vancouver would have been more patient with the ninth overall pick of the ’83 draft, but let’s not pile on too much. (OK, the rest of this post probably qualifies as piling on, but still …)

Neely emerged almost immediately upon arriving in Boston, scoring 36 goals and 72 points in his first season with the Bruins. As you probably know, he went on to become a Hall of Famer despite having his career cut short by injuries.

Neely’s career was prolific enough to make Canucks fans wistful, but Glen Wesley’s years with Boston – and the assets the Bruins received from trading him – make the deal even more lopsided. Wesley spent seven seasons in Boston, making one All-Star team in the 88-89 season.

Now, it’s not really fair to beat up on Vancouver for trades they weren’t actually involved in, but the branching paths of trades that were made possible by acquiring Wesley are still making an impact today. Using a fantastic timeline by “The Hipster Jew” as inspiration, let’s take a look at the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon-like path of the trade.

  • Boston trades Wesley to the Hartford Whalers in 1994 for three first round picks: 1995 (Kyle McLaren), 1996 (Johnathan Aitken) and 1997 (Sergei Samsonov).
  • They then traded McLaren with their 2004 fourth rounder (Torrey Mitchell) to the San Jose Sharks in 2003 for Jeff Hackett and Jeff Jillson.
  • Samsonov qualified as Joe Thornton’s first great running mate/beneficiary, but they eventually traded him to the Edmonton Oilers for Marty Reasoner, Yan Stastny and the Oilers’ second round pick in ’06, which ended up being … Milan Lucic. (Yup, that’s right, the Bruins found their closest heir to Neely thanks to the Neely trade. Yikes.)
  • The Bruins turned Jeff Jillson into Brad Boyes (from San Jose in ’04) and then Boyes to Dennis Wideman (from the St. Louis Blues in ’07) .
  • Wideman was eventually traded with Boston’s 2010 first round pick (Derek Fortbort) to the Florida Panthers for Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell before the ’10 draft.

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So, in the most direct way, the Bruins won that trade thanks to Neely’s great career and seven quality seasons of Wesley. That being said, the additional assets the B’s acquired add insult to injury, even if other NHL teams were involved. The Bruins acquired 2/3 of their top scoring line (Horton and Lucic) indirectly thanks to the Neely trade, so you cannot blame Canucks fans if they think to that pivotal moment in ’86 whenever Boston’s best trio comes through.

The Buzzer: Tatar’s three-point night; Matthews makes more history

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Three Stars

1. Tomas Tatar, Montreal Canadiens. Two big wins in a row for the Canadiens. Two big nights for Tatar, who now has six points in his last two games. During a 7-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings, Tatar scored a goal and assisted on two others. Last season, Tatar had only two multi-point games the entire year.

2. Kasperi Kapanen, Toronto Maple Leafs. Kapanen continued his red-hot start with a pair of goals during the Maple Leafs’ 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings. He now has four goals and eight points through seven games this season, really making most of this opportunity in William Nylander‘s absence.

3. Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators. A 37-save effort from Anderson helped the Senators dispatch the Dallas Stars 4-1. It was Anderson’s second win in a row and over his last two games he’s stopped 73 of 75 shots faced.

Highlights of the Night

• During their game Monday night, the Senators remembered the late Ray Emery:

• Maxime Lajoie can’t stop scoring. The Senators defensman potted his fourth of the season and now has seven points on the season.

• In his 1,000th NHL game, Tomas Plekanec scored:

• One of Kapanen’s goals was this bank shot:

• Good luck trying to stop this Matt Dumba rocket:

Factoid of the Night

Scores
Maple Leafs 4, Kings 1

Senators 4, Stars 1
Canadiens 7, Red Wings 3
Predators 4, Wild 2

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Panthers’ Matheson suspended two games for slamming Pettersson to ice

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The NHL announced on Monday evening that Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson has been suspended two games for “interference and unsportsmanlike conduct” against Vancouver Canucks rookie forward Elias Pettersson over the weekend.

Petterson has been entered in to the NHL’s concussion protocol and is expected to be sidelined for the next 7-10 days as a result of the play.

The incident took place early in the third period of Saturday’s game in Florida and left the Canucks completely furious. Just after Pettersson had dangled around Matheson in the offensive zone, Matheson again encountered the talented rookie along the boards and after checking him, proceeded to slam him to the ice with the puck nowhere near the two players.

Here is the video as well as the NHL’s explanation for the suspension.

Panthers coach Bob Boughner tried to defend his play on Monday by saying that Matheson is an honest player and that he was just attempting to finish his check hard, while Matheson’s agent said that his client was “surprised” by how light Pettersson is and that it all happened very quickly.

On Monday, Canucks coach Travis Green was still upset about the play and how it resulted in his team losing a bright young star to injury on a play that was not necessary.

“Am I mad at the play? Extremely mad. I’m really upset, I still am,” Green said. “We lost a bright young player to an injury that I don’t think was necessary. I’m pissed off right now, still talking about it.”

Matheson forfeits $52,419.36 in salary and is eligible to return to the Panthers’ lineup Saturday against Detroit.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Crosby, MacKinnon surprise Kenyan hockey team (Video)

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Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon have teamed up before to promote Tim Hortons, the Canadian coffee and donut shop, but their latest venture saw them help spread the gospel of hockey.

Tim Hortons flew 12 members of Kenya’s senior men’s hockey team to Canada over the summer for a game. The African team, which was formed in 2012 and has set a goal for future Olympic participation, has only been able to play against themselves back home and this would be a new experience playing against an actual opponent.

As the players gathered inside their locker room, which featured brand new equipment and Kenya hockey jerseys, in came the Pittsburgh Penguins captain and Colorado Avalanche star to join their team.

“It is a dream to not only have the chance to play in Canada, but to play – for the first time – in full gear alongside two of the greatest players of the game,” said team captain Benard Azegere. “When we first started playing in Kenya, we didn’t even have full equipment, but now not only do we have that, we can say we’ve played a real game with some All-Star teammates.”

“That’s the best part about the game, just how it reaches so many people in a place like Kenya where you wouldn’t think there’s even ice,” Crosby said on Monday via the Tribune-Review. “To meet people from different places and to share the game that we love to play, I think I had as much fun as any of those guys today.”

The Kenyan Ice Hockey Federation is coming soon, and the men are not alone in their pursuit of a national team. As ESPN.com documented last week, a group of five women make up the Nairobi Ice Lions, who, like the men, see Olympic participation in their future.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Alex DeBrincat is Blackhawks’ next rising star

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Alex DeBrincat spent three seasons between 2014 and 2017 absolutely dominating the Ontario Hockey League. He was one of the most productive and prolific scorers in all of junior hockey during his time with the Erie Otters, and never finished a full season with less than 50 goals or 100 points.

That sort of production, combined with his obvious talent level, should have made him one of the first picks in the 2016 draft class.

It didn’t. Mainly because he was listed at 5-7 and under 170 pounds, making him one of the smallest players in the class and, today, one of the smallest players in the NHL. As he slid out of the first round in 2016 there was always the potential for somebody to get a steal of a player.

That somebody turned out to be the Chicago Blackhawks, who ended up snagging him with the 39th overall pick in the draft.

Today, that pick is looking like one of the steals of that draft.

DeBrincat has been one of the offensive stars for the Blackhawks in the early going this season and already has nine points (including six goals) in the team’s first five games. That comes after a rookie season that saw him finish as the Blackhawks’ leading goal scorer. So far, he is one of the most productive players to come out of his draft class as the only players to outscore him have been Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Mathew Tkachuk, and Clayton Keller, all of whom were among the first seven players taken in the draft.

Only Matthews, Laine, and Keller have been better on a points per game basis.

All of this is a huge development for the Blackhawks.

Given their current salary cap situation they are going to need young players on cheap contracts to fill in around their big-money stars at the top of the lineup. DeBrincat is well on his way to giving them such a player and should be part of the organization’s next wave of young talent. And that next wave seems to have some promising prospects. Along with DeBrincat the Blackhawks are also getting a ton of production out of rookie defenseman Henri Jokiharju, the team’s first-round pick in 2017, and they also have Adam Boqvist, the No. 7 overall pick from 2018, waiting in the wings.

The lesson that the rest of the teams in the league should take away from this is to never let a player’s size stand in the way of giving them a chance. Over the past decade teams have been far more willing to take “undersized” players than they used to be, but they are still a little too fearful of that lack of size because there was nothing in DeBrincat’s production or play as a junior player that should have resulted in him being anything other than a first-round pick … and probably a very high one. Obviously if all things are equal with players the bigger, more physical player is preferable. But in cases like DeBrincat (and Johnny Gaudreau, and Nikita Kucherov, and so on and so on before him) all things are not usually equal.

DeBrincat has always been a highly skilled player that produced at an obscene level. There was always the potential for him to be a top-line player. A lot of teams couldn’t get past the lack of size and allowed him to slip all the way down to the second round. The Blackhawks were the team to take the “chance” on him and are being rewarded with an emerging star that could be a potential difference-maker for them for a very, very long time.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.