PHT Time Machine: The Lindros trade that didn’t happen


Throughout the summer we will be taking a look back at some significant moments in NHL history. This is the PHT Time Machine. Today we look back to the Eric Lindros trade and the sequence of events that resulted in him joining the Philadelphia Flyers instead of the New York Rangers. 

Few transactions in NHL history have been as impactful as the 1992 trade that saw the Quebec Nordiques send prized prospect Eric Lindros to the Philadelphia Flyers for a package of players that would later be used to help build a mini-dynasty and one of the most dominant teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

That is the trade we all remember.

It was not the only trade made that day involving Eric Lindros.

The Background

You would be hard-pressed to find a non-expansion team that had a worse three-year run on the ice than the late 1980s/early 1990s Quebec Nordiques. To call the team a dumpster fire would be an insult to dumpster fires everywhere. Between the 1988 and 1991 seasons the Nordiques won just 55 out of a possible 240 games, finishing with what was by far the worst record in the league each year.

How bad were they during this stretch? The next worst team in the NHL (the New York Islanders) was 30 wins better than them.

The bright side to all of this losing is that it happened in the pre-lottery days, meaning the Nordiques earned the No. 1 overall pick each year.

Following the 1988-89 season they used that selection on Mats Sundin, a superstar that would play four years in Quebec before being traded to Toronto (more on this later).

In 1990, the top pick was used on Owen Nolan, another excellent player that remained with the organization through its move to Colorado in 1995 where he would later be traded for Sandis Ozolinsh.

Then there was the 1991 pick.

The 1991 pick was the big one because that was the year Eric Lindros was entering the NHL, and everybody knew this was the player to get. If you recall from our PHT Time Machine on the 1991 dispersal draft and the birth of the San Jose Sharks, Lindros was such a big deal that the NHL intentionally gave the expansion Sharks the second overall pick in the draft to make sure they didn’t get him as he was the most prized prospect to enter the league since Mario Lemieux.

Lindros was some sort of a hockey Frankenstein that was seemingly created in a laboratory due to his unheard of combination of skill, size, and strength.

The Nordiques were the team that was bad enough to get him.

The problem? Lindros wanted absolutely nothing to do with the Nordiques or Quebec, a position he made known before the draft. At the time it was believed that his refusal to play for Quebec was due to everything from the lack of marketing potential in Quebec, to the “french culture” of the city. But in an interview with ESPN following his Hall of Fame induction in 2016, Lindros said it had nothing to do with any of that and was simply due to his desire to not play for team owner Marcel Aubut.

“The decision to not play for Quebec was based solely on the owner. It had nothing to do with language, culture, city,” Lindros said. “Keep in mind, my wife is French [from Quebec]. I was not going to play for that individual — period.”

No matter the reason, he was not playing for Quebec and instead spent the 1992 season playing for the Oshawa Generals and the Canadian Olympic team, which took home the silver medal.

There was also no amount of money that was going to get him to Quebec, with him reportedly turning down a 10-year, $50 million offer that would have made him the highest paid athlete in professional sports history (at the time).

That same November, recently fired Nordiques coach Dave Chambers went on record as saying he did not believe Lindros was ever joining the team and that they had to trade him in an effort to get something for him.

The following summer that is exactly what the Nordiques did.

The only problem with the decision is that they ended up trading him twice.

The Trades

Just hours before the start of the 1992 draft (where the Nordiques would select Todd Warriner with the No. 4 overall pick) they reached agreements with both the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers for the rights to Lindros. This, naturally, caused some havoc around the NHL.

The story goes that Aubut had originally agreed to a deal with the Flyers the morning of the draft, only to change his mind after receiving the Rangers’ offer.

With both teams believing they had a right to Lindros, the NHL was forced to bring in an arbitrator — Larry Bertuzzi — to decide which team would end up getting him.

Bertuzzi ended up listening to five days of testimony and took 400 pages of hand-written notes before finally concluding 10 days later that it was the Flyers, and not the Rangers, that had the valid deal for Lindros.

The final trade ended up being Eric Lindros to the Flyers in exchange for Peter Forsberg (the No. 6 overall pick in the Lindros draft), Steve Duschene, Kerry Huffman, Mike Ricci, Ron Hextall, Chris Simon, Philadelphia’s first-round draft picks in 1993 and 1994 and $15 million in cash.

It was a total blockbuster.

On the day Bertuzzi’s decision was announced, it was also revealed that the Rangers’ trade was just as massive as the Flyers’ and reportedly included Tony Amonte (the Calder Trophy runner up the previous year), Alexei Kovalev, Doug Weight, John Vanbiesbrouck, three future first-round draft picks, and $12 million in cash.

The Aftermath

A lot of things happened as a result of Bertuzzi’s decision to award Lindros to the Flyers.

First, Lindros went on to become the player everyone thought he would be and was as dominant a player as the NHL had during his career. The only thing that held him back were the injuries and concussions that ultimately cut his career short and perhaps kept him from being even better than he was.

The Flyers never ended up getting a Stanley Cup out of it, but they were a consistent playoff team during his time and did reach the Final in 1997.

Quebec, meanwhile, would use that package of players and draft picks to help assemble a mini-dynasty shortly after relocating to Colorado for the 1995-96 season.

Among the pieces Colorado ended up getting as a result of the trade…

  • Peter Forsberg would go on to be one of the cornerstone players in Colorado’s championship runs and one of the league’s best two-way players.
  • Steve Duchene was later traded to St. Louis for a package of players that included Garth Butcher, Ron Sutter and Bob Bassen. Butcher was later included in a trade, along with Sundin and the 1994 draft pick acquired in the Lindros trade, that would bring Wendell Clark to Quebec. Clark was then later traded to the New York Islanders in a one-for-one swap in exchange for Claude Lemieux, who would play a huge role on the 1996 Stanley Cup team in Colorado.
  • Mike Ricci was a member of Colorado’s 1996 Stanley Cup winning team and was then traded to San Jose one year later for Shean Donovan and the Sharks’ 1997 first-round pick. The Avalanche would use that pick to select Alex Tanguay, who would be a top-line player in Colorado for several years. He also recorded 21 points in 23 playoff games during Colorado’s run to the 2001 Stanley Cup.
  • Ron Hextall would get traded (along with Quebec’s own first-round pick in 1993) to the New York Islanders for Mark Fitzpatrick and a draft pick that would later be used to select Adam Deadmarsh, who would win a Stanley Cup with the Avalanche in 1996 and then be used as a trade chip to acquire Rob Blake in 2001 who would help the team win another Stanley Cup.
  • Quebec used the 1993 first-round pick acquired from Philadelphia to select goalie Jocelyn Thibault. Thibault’s claim to fame with the Nordiques/Avalanche franchise would be the fact he was one of the key pieces in the 1995-96 trade that was sent to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for goalie Patrick Roy.

In other words: Along with adding Forsberg, the Lindros trade tree had branches that extended into the acquisitions of Claude Lemieux, Adam Deadmarsh, Patrick Roy, Rob Blake and Alex Tanguay, a stunning level of roster and asset management, the likes of which we will probably never see in the NHL again.

This was a perfect storm of circumstances and a once in a lifetime chain of events that would be nearly impossible to duplicate in today’s NHL.

But what about the Rangers in all of this?

While none of the players they agreed to trade were as good as Forsberg, there was still a ton of talent potentially going the other way. Amonte, for example, was coming off of a rookie season that saw him score 35 goals and would go on to play more than 1,100 games in the NHL, scoring 416 career goals. Weight was a promising young center, and Kovalev, the Rangers’ first-round pick in 1991, was a superstar level talent with off-the-charts potential that had yet to make his NHL debut.

As disappointed as general manager Neil Smith was with losing out on the Lindros decision, things still had a funny way of working out in the form of a Stanley Cup victory in 1994, ending the franchise’s 54-year championship drought.

  • Kovalev, playing in his second season at the age of 20, was the Rangers’ third-leading scorer in the playoffs during that 1994 Stanley Cup run.
  • Weight was traded the following year to the Edmonton Oilers for Esa Tikkanen, who would be a valuable role player on the ’94 team before being traded a year later to the St. Louis Blues for Petr Nedved. After a half season the Rangers traded Nedved and Sergei Zubov to Pittsburgh for Luc Robitaille and Ulf Samuelsson.
  • Amonte was traded at the 1994 deadline for veterans Stephane Matteau and Brian Noonan. While neither player would go on to have the career that Amonte did, they did play a big role in the playoffs with Matteau scoring one of the most famous goals in Rangers history.

Would the Rangers have still won that Stanley cup with Lindros in place of Kovalev, Tikkanen, Matteau, and Noonan? Would they have maybe won more than the one Stanley Cup with Lindros over several years? Would Quebec/Colorado have been able to turn those assets into the same type of returns they did? All fascinating questions that we have no answer for.

Still, the only team involved in all of this that did not get a Stanley Cup championship out of it was the team that ended up getting Lindros — the Flyers.

Lindros would ultimately end up in New York nearly a decade later when the Flyers sent him to the Rangers in exchange for defenseman Kim Johnsson and forwards Jan Hlavac and Pavel Brendl.

Johnsson is the only one that would have any sort of a career with the Flyers, while Lindros spent two mostly disappointing seasons with the Rangers in 2002-03 and 2003-04. The ’03-04 season was particularly disastrous for the Rangers as Lindros was limited to just 39 games and the team, having also acquired Jaromir Jagr, Pavel Bure, and re-acquiring Kovalev ended up winning just 27 games.

Previous PHT Time Machines:
• Remembering the Jaromir Jagr Trade Nobody Won
• When the Blues skipped the NHL draft

• Expansion teams build Montreal dynasty
The 1991 Dispersal Draft and Birth of the San Jose Sharks

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

NHL: Players can start voluntary group workouts next week


The NHL cleared the way Thursday for players to return to practice rinks next week and firmed up its playoff format even as a ninth player tested positive for the coronavirus.

After unveiling the final details of its 24-team plan if the season is able to resume this summer, the league said teams could reopen facilities and players could take part in limited, voluntary workouts beginning Monday. The NHL and NHL Players’ Association must still iron out health and safety protocols before moving ahead with training camps and games.

Players can skate in groups of up to six at a time under ”phase 2,” which includes specific instructions on testing, mask-wearing and temperature checks. It’s another step closer to the ice after the league said every playoff series will be a best-of-seven format after the initial qualifying round and teams will be reseeded throughout.

That announcement came at nearly the same time the Pittsburgh Penguins revealed one of their players had tested positive. The team said the player is not in Pittsburgh, isolated after experiencing symptoms and has recovered from COVID-19.

Of the nine players who have tested positive, five are from the Ottawa Senators, three from the Colorado Avalanche and one from Pittsburgh. The league is expected to test players daily if games resume. The NHL is still assessing health and safety protocols for what would be 24 teams playing in two hub cities.

”We still have a lot of things to figure out, namely the safety of the players,” Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler said earlier this week. ”We’ve got to make sure that our safety is at the top of that list. Because we’re a few months into this pandemic, we don’t know what the long-term effects are going to be. A lot of questions to be answered.”

The final details of the format answered one question: Players preferred re-seeding throughout a 24-team playoff as a means of fairness, though the league likes the brackets that have been in place since 2014.

”We prefer as a general matter brackets for a whole host of reasons,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said last week. ”We’ve told the players who have been debating it internally if they have a preference, we’re happy to abide by it.”

The top four teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences will play separate round-robin tournaments to determine seeding. Re-seeding each round puts more value on the seeding tournaments between Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia in the East, and St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas in the West.

”Those games are going to be competitive,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said.

The remaining 16 teams will play best-of-five series to set the final 16.

Toronto captain John Tavares, a member of the NHL/NHLPA Return to Play committee, said he preferred the traditional seven-game series once the playoffs were down to the more traditional 16 teams. A majority of players agreed.

”Everybody is used to a best-of-seven,” Pittsburgh player representative Kris Letang said. ”You know how it’s structured. You know how it feels if you lose the first two or you win the first two. You kind of know all the scenarios that can go through a best-of-seven.”

Having each series be best-of-seven will add several days to the schedule to award the Stanley Cup as late as October. But players felt it worth it to maintain the integrity of the playoffs.

”Any team that is going to win five rounds, four rounds of best-of-seven … I think it will be a very worthy Stanley Cup champion and they’ll be as worthy as any team or players that won it before them,” Tavares said.

Fabbri wants to return to Red Wings; Should feeling be mutual?

Robby Fabbri Red Wings future free agency
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Robby Fabbri keeps making his point clear: he wants to return to the Detroit Red Wings. The pending RFA told the Detroit News’ Ted Kulfan as much on Wednesday, while admitting that it’s ultimately the Red Wings’ call.

“That’s something out of my control right now,” Fabbri told Kulfan regarding Red Wings negotiations. “Everything has been great since the first day I came to Detroit. It’s a great organization, great group of guys, a great opportunity here, so it’s definitely a place I want to be and play for as long as I can.”

Fabbri added that he “couldn’t be happier” playing for the rebuilding Red Wings. And, again, it’s something he’s hammered on before. The 24-year-old noted to the Detroit Free-Press’ Dana Gauruder that his girlfriend and dogs have been delighted, too.

(You know what they say: happy girlfriend and dogs, happy life?)

If Fabbri got his way, the Red Wings would hand him an extension for a at least a few years. The forward hopes for more security than the one-year “prove it” deals he’s settled for in recent seasons. Fabbri would be even happier if he could stick at his “natural position” of center. (Detroit tried him out as a center at times in 2019-20.)

“I am definitely hoping and excited to get off the back-to-back one-year contracts but that part of the game is for my agent to talk to Yzerman about,” Fabbri said to Gauruder in late May. “I’ll leave that up to them and just control what I can control …”

This begs a natural question, then. Should the Red Wings want Fabbri back? Let’s consider the circumstances.

Should the Red Wings bring Fabbri back?

It really is something to consider how different circumstances were for Fabbri in Detroit than in St. Louis. Certainly, the teams were wildly different. The Blues are the defending Stanley Cup champions, while the rebuilding Red Wings rank as one of the worst teams of the salary cap era. But that disparity opened the door for Fabbri to rejuvenate his career.

Fabbri with Blues:

After two-plus injury-ravaged seasons, Fabbri suited up for nine Blues games in 2019-20. He managed one goal and zero assists, averaging just 9:42 TOI per game. This marked easily the low point of his Blues years, as even in 2018-19, Fabbri averaged 12:39 per night when he could play (32 GP).

All things considered, the Blues trading Fabbri to the Red Wings for Jacob De La Rose made a lot of sense. For all parties, really.

The Red Wings understandably hoped to see glimpses of the rookie who managed a promising 18 goals and 37 points in 72 games in 2015-16.

What Fabbri brought to the Red Wings

Generally speaking, Fabbri delivered nicely for the Red Wings.

He scored 14 goals and 31 points in 52 games, seeing his ice time surge to a career-high 17:16 per game. Fabbri’s .60 points-per-game average represented another career-high, up slightly from his previous peak of .57 per contest in 2016-17 (29 points in 51 games).

M Live’s Ansar Khan refers to the Fabbri trade as GM Steve Yzerman’s best so far with the Red Wings. Maybe that qualifies as faint praise (so far), but in general, it seems like Fabbri fit in nicely.

What should Red Wings do?

The Red Wings have a few options.

Forgive a bit of front office cynicism, but the shrewdest strategy might be to pursue a “pump and dump” during the trade deadline. Part of Fabbri’s production came from playing with players like Dylan Larkin, so maybe Detroit could be sellers at the trade deadline and get max value for Fabbri?

After all, while Fabbri looks pretty solid relative to some other Red Wings on this Evolving Hockey GAR chart:

Fabbri GAR Red Wings
via Evolving Hockey

Things look less promising if you dig deeper. Heck, consider how Fabbri compares to Jacob De La Rose at even-strength in this Evolving Hockey RAPM chart for some perspective:

Fabbri vs. Jacob De La Rose Red Wings
via Evolving Hockey

(Either way, if Jeff Blashill is a traditional coach, he might grumble at Fabbri only winning 39.4 percent of his faceoffs. Fair or not, as that’s only a small part of playing center.)

Yet, even handing Fabbri some term can make moderate sense.

The Red Wings may need some time for this rebuild to really revv up. Fabbri’s young enough at 24, and he’s also been through quite a bit in his career. Any player struggling in development can look to Fabbri as evidence that you shouldn’t give up.

And, in the meantime, Fabbri can pitch in some scoring for a team that figures to badly need it.

All things considered, it makes sense for the Red Wings to bring back Fabbri in some fashion. Considering the injury headaches Fabbri went through, it’s also easy to root for him — plus his girlfriend and their dogs:

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James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

League clears up 2020 NHL Playoffs picture, including re-seeding

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The NHL and NHLPA agreed to some key details to how the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs will operate … assuming the playoffs can happen. We now know how the league will handle the Round Robin for Seeding, Qualifying Round, all the way to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

Before we go round by round, note that the biggest takeaways are that the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs will involve re-seeding (not bracketing) and that every round will include a best-of-seven series after the Qualifying Round/Round Robin for Seeding.

In other words, if this all comes to pass, prepare for a lot of hockey.

How the NHL Playoffs will work through 2020 Stanley Cup Final

Let’s review what we know so far.

Qualifying Round; Round Robin for Seeding

  • As announced earlier, each Qualifying Round (four per conference) series will go by a best-of-five format. Read more about that format here.
  • Johnston reports that the Round Robin for Seeding will involve three games each per team. Points percentage will serve as a tiebreaker if needed during the Round Robin for Seeding.

It was first believed that teams who won Qualifying Round series would face specific opponents based on bracketing. Instead, re-seeding means that the highest seeds will face the lowest seeds all the way down to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

Here’s how “home ice” will work out, via the NHL:

* In the Qualifying Round, the higher-seeded team will be designated as the home team in Games 1, 2 and 5. The lower-seeded team will be designated as the home team in Games 3 and 4.

2020 NHL Playoffs: First Round through the 2020 Stanley Cup Final

To reiterate, following the Qualifying Round (best-of-five) and Round Robin for Seeding (three games apiece), each series will be a best-of-seven, with re-seeding. It might be easier to see how it flows this way, then:

  • Qualifying Round (best-of-five series, four series per conference); Round Robin for Seeding (three games apiece, top four teams in each conference involved). Re-seeding instead of bracketing.
  • First Round (best-of-seven series, four series per conference). Teams re-seed after First Round.
  • Second Round (best-of-seven series, two series per conference). Teams re-seed after Second Round.
  • 2020 Eastern Conference Final (best-of-seven series) and 2020 Western Conference Final (best-of-seven series).

Via the NHL, here’s how “home-ice” will play out before the 2020 Stanley Cup Final:

* In the First Round, Second Round and Conference Finals, the higher-seeded team will be designated as the home team in Games 1, 2, 5 and 7. The lower-seeded team will be designated as the home team in Games 3, 4 and 6.

  • 2020 Stanley Cup Final (best-of-seven series).

Finally, the league shared this “home-ice” info for the 2020 Stanley Cup Final:

* In the Stanley Cup Final, the team with the higher regular season points percentage will be designated as the home team in Games 1, 2, 5 and 7. The team with the lower regular season points percentage will be designated as the home team in Games 3, 4 and 6

NHL, NHLPA opt for more hockey approach

Before Thursday, some expected that the First Round, and possibly the Second Round, might instead be best-of-five series. Instead, the NHL and NHLPA opted to go longer.

Johnston captures the risk part of that risk-reward scenario quite well, noting that two extra best-of-seven rounds could add nine days to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and that the playoff tournament could last as long as 68 days. That requires some big gambles that COVID-19 cases won’t spike to the point that the NHL needs to go on “pause” once more.

If it all works out, then the “integrity” of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs is definitely emphasized. (Also, more best-of-seven series definitely strengthens the “toughest ever” arguments.) Few can credibly say they’ve been robbed of a real chance, given that 24 teams are involved.

We’ll have to wait and see if it’s all worth it, and if the NHL can actually pull this off. Personally, re-seeding seems fair if it doesn’t lead to additional travel, while the bevy best-of-seven series seems dicey.

Naturally, the NHL and NHLPA still need to hash out other details.


James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Penguins player tested positive for COVID-19, now recovered

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The Penguins announced on Thursday that one of their players had tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the team, the unidentified player “is recovered and feeling well.” Anyone who came into close contact with him has been notified.

So far, nine NHL players have tested positive for COVID-19, including five from the Senators and three from the Avalanche.

It is expected that the NHL will announce its Phase 2 plans this week. That will allow for players to workout in small voluntary groups at team facilities. Training camps are still expected to open in mid-July.

As players get set for Phase 2, the league will have strict screening protocols in place.

“We will have a rigorous daily testing protocol where players are tested every evening and those results are obtained before they would leave their hotel rooms the next morning, so we’ll know if we have a positive test and whether the player has to self-quarantine himself as a result of that positive test,” said Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. “It’s expensive, but we think it’s really a foundational element of what we’re trying to accomplish.”

“You need testing at a level sufficient to be confident that you’re going to be on top of anything which might happen,” said NHL Players’ Association executive director Donald Fehr. “If that turns out to be daily, and that’s available, that’s OK. That would be good. If it turns out that that’s not quite what we need and we can get by with a little less, that’s OK.”

Follow this NBC News live update thread for more on the coronavirus pandemic.


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