The Bruins sent Samsonov to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday, trading the former first-round pick in a push for the playoffs just 36 games after shipping Thornton out of town. Boston will get centers Marty Reasoner and Yan Stastny and a second-round pick in this year's draft.
"We still want to give ourselves a chance to get in the playoffs," general manager Mike O'Connell said. "I think we've done that."
Samsonov was sent to the Oilers just before the NHL's trade deadline and before the Bruins' game against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night. Reasoner and Stastny were not in town in time for the game.
The Bruins finished last in 1996-97 and earned the right to take a 17-year-old Thornton with the first overall selection. They grabbed Samsonov, then 18, at No. 8 and hoped they had the building blocks for their next Stanley Cup championship.
They topped 100 points twice -- in 2002 and again in 2004, when they had the best record in the Eastern Conference but lost in the first round -- again -- to the Canadiens.
"The 2003-2004 Bruins team has pretty much been dismantled, and he understood that," said Neil Abbott, Samsonov's agent. "Leaving Boston is pretty difficult for Sergei, because he has been here pretty much his whole pro career. It's a fresh start, and Sergei will go to Edmonton and do his best."
The Bruins felt Thornton never became the player he could have been and sent him to the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 30. With Samsonov due to become a free agent after the season and the Bruins languishing in last place in the Northeast Division, O'Connell didn't want his star center to leave without getting something in return.
"Part of it was the uncertainty of not being able to sign him," O'Connell said, adding that he did not attempt to negotiate an extension for Samsonov. "If it comes to the summer and he wants to come back, we'll listen. ... I wasn't sure of which way he wanted to go."
Reasoner can also be an unrestricted free agent after the season. Stastny is in the first year of his entry-level contract.
O'Connell denied he was giving up on this season with 20 games to play. The Bruins were 25-27-10 heading into Thursday night's game and tied for 11th in the race for the Eastern Conference's eight playoff spots.
"Many of the deals that were presented to us were just draft picks. We wanted to get players back that would help our lineup," O'Connell said. "If we just traded players for draft picks, that would be a white flag."
In his 514 NHL games career, Samsonov has 164 goals and 212 assists. The 27-year-old left winger was the Bruins' fifth-leading scorer, with 18 goals and 19 assists in 55 games this season.
"This year was spotty for Sergei, injury-wise," O'Connell said. "It seemed like he could never get his flow going."
"Any time there's a player available with Sergei's skill, you love it when your team grabs him up," Oilers captain Jason Smith said. "He's going to score a lot of goals for us. I loved it when I heard we were able to get him, instead of another team in the chase."
Reasoner played 58 games with the Oilers this season, posting nine goals and 17 assists.
"Marty is an excellent playmaker, and we were looking to increase our opportunities to score," O'Connell said.
Stastny played the two previous seasons in Germany.