Was Eric Lindros Really Once Traded to Two Different Teams at the Same Time?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about hockey and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the hockey urban legends featured so far.

HOCKEY URBAN LEGEND: Eric Lindros was once traded to two different teams at the same time.

Going into the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, 18-year-old Eric Lindros was one of the most hyped prospects in the history of the National Hockey League, drawing comparisons to such legendary prospects as Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky.

What made Lindros stand out from most other skilled forward prospects was his imposing physicality – as an 18-year-old he was already able to brutalize men much older than he (typically, that sort of ability comes to a player as he grows older and fills out his physique) on TOP of his abilities as a scorer.

So Lindros was the obvious pick for the #1 overall draft pick in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft.

The only problem was WHO held the draft pick.

The Quebec Nordiques were not exactly a marquee NFL franchise, and when you couple in the fact that players on the Nordiques could expect to hear a lot of French spoken, Lindros did not want to play for the Nordiques and he informed them that they he would NOT play for them if they drafted him (the next three draft picks were owned by teams from the United States – the San Jose Sharks, New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders).

The Nordiques called his bluff and picked him anyways.

True to his word, though, Lindros refused to sign with them and went back to the Canadian Hockey League in 1992 (and played for Team Canada in the 1992 Olympics – remember, this guy was that good).

By the next year, the Nordiques relaxed a bit on their initial pledge to never let him go if he would not sign with them (you would have to presume that the NHL as a whole probably flexed a little muscle on the Nordique ownership to just trade the guy already).

For a player of this stature and youth, teams all over the NHL were lining up to throw loads of marquee names, draft picks and money at the Nordiques. And the Nordiques were ready to deal…but perhaps TOO ready, as you’ll soon find out!

On the night before the 1992 NHL Entry Draft, the Nordiques agreed to a deal with the Philadelphia Flyers for the following players:

Center Mike Ricci, Goalie Ron Hextall, Defensemen Steve Duchesne and Kerry Huffman, Forward Peter Forsberg, the Flyers’ 7th overall pick in the 1992 NHL Draft and the Flyers’ #1 pick in the 1993 NHL Draft.

The Flyers would also pay them $15 million.

However, a few hours after the deal, the New York Rangers upped their last offer to the Nordiques to make it:

Forwards Alexei Kovalev and Tony Amonte, Center Doug Weight, Goalie John Vanbiesbrouck (since Vanbiesbrouck was a certain type of restricted free agent, the Nordiques might not have been able to sign him, so the Rangers agreed to throw in Defenseman James Patrick if the Nordiques could not sign Vanbiesbrouck), plus #1 picks in the 1993, 1994 AND 1995 NHL Drafts.

The Rangers would also pay them $12 million.

While Peter Forsberg was the best player in any of the offers, the Rangers offer (at the time, at least) seemed clearly to be the better offer, so the Nordiques quickly accepted it.

Yep, they traded Lindros to TWO different teams!!

Of course, the whole thing went to arbitration, and in the end, league arbitrator Larry Bertuzzi (who was the grand-uncle of NHL player Todd Bertuzzi) awarded the Flyers Lindros as, after all, their deal WAS done first.

However, due to the fact that it took almost two weeks for Bertuzzi to make his ruling, the 1992 Draft had obviously come and gone, so the Flyers had to substitute a 1994 Draft pick and minor leaguer Chris Simon (who would go on to have a strong career in the NHL while the player the Flyers took with the #7 pick in 1992, Ryan Sittler, did not).

The deal ended up forming the backbone of the Colorado Avalanche (the team name of the Nordiques once they moved to Colorado in 1995 – so Lindros would only have had to deal with Quebec for four years had he just accepted the original drafting)’s two Stanley Cup victories in 1996 and 2001, as the 1993 draft pick from the Flyers turned into Goalie Jocelyn Thibault, who, in turn, turned into Goalie Patrick Roy (winner of the 2001 Conn Smythe Trophy – the award given to the best player in the playoffs – in the Avalanche’s race to the Cup) and Peter Forsberg was one of the team’s very best player for years.

Lindros had a good career for the Flyers, taking them to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1997 (where they lost to the Detroit Red Wings).

However, the very physical play that made him so unique also took its toll on him via injuries.

Ultimately, due to squabbling with management, Lindros was put on the trade block in the 2001 NHL offseason (the same year that the Avalanche had their second Cup). The Flyers ended up dealing him to none other than the New York Rangers!

Lindros played well for the Rangers, but again, the injuries from his physical style of play kept mounting up (especially the concussions) and when the Rangers let him go prior to the 2004-05 season (which ended up getting wiped out by the lockout), a couple of doctors thought he should just retire.

Lindros played for two more teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2005-06 and the Dallas Stars in 2006-07, but he was not in great shape and he suffered a few more injuries and finally retired in 2007.

He still had a strong career, but seeing what happened in the Lindros trade will probably influence teams from here on out not to offer TOO much for a top prospect, no matter how heralded.

The legend is…

STATUS: Basically True

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

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