The Patrick Marleau trade watch continues this week, with rumors swirling that the San Jose Sharks could be shopping the forward, possibly at his request. The story feels familiar, one that plays out multiple times every season: the veteran star on the middling team, with both sides wondering if a change of scenery wouldn't be for the best.
But there's a twist here that makes the Marleau situation somewhat unique. The forward has spent his entire career in San Jose, and is currently in his 18th season with the Sharks. While veterans are dealt all the time, it's remarkably rare to see a guy spend anywhere near that much time with one franchise and then leave via trade.
How rare? According to Elias Sports Bureau, just 21 players in NHL history have played at least 15 full seasons with one franchise, then moved on to play for another team. Of those, nine left as free agents, including recent cases like Daniel Alfredsson and Martin Brodeur (as well as current Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney). Three more went to the World Hockey Association and then returned to the NHL when the league absorbed their new clubs. And one, Serge Savard, was plucked in the waiver draft.
That leaves just eight players in the history of the NHL that have done what Marleau may be on the verge of doing: Play the first 15 seasons or more of their career for one franchise, and then find themselves traded out of town. So I figured I'd take a look back at each of those cases, and see if there's anything that Marleau and the Sharks can learn from them.
The prelude: Bourque was a first-round pick in 1979 and made the Bruins as a teenager that same year. He'd go on to play almost 21 full seasons in Boston, winning five Norris Trophies, earning 12 first-team all-star honors, and recording over 1,500 points. His time in Boston saw him achieve just about everything a player could ever hope to, with one exception.
The trade: With no Stanley Cup rings after two decades in Boston and the Bruins on the verge of missing the playoffs, Bourque requested a trade to a contender. On March 6, 2000, the Bruins sent him and Dave Andreychuk to the Avalanche in exchange for Brian Rolston, Samuel Pahlsson, Martin Grenier and a first-round pick.
The aftermath: This deal is pretty much the sports world's gold standard for trades involving a longtime franchise player. The Bruins didn't get much for their superstar, but that was hardly the point. This move was all about getting Bourque his ring. And while it didn't happen in 2000, that just set the stage for one of the most cherished moments in hockey history to play out one season later.
The lesson: Sometimes, it's more important to find the right fit for your long-serving veteran than it is to squeeze every drop of value out of a trade. Unfortunately, that sort of sentiment seems unlikely to apply here. Marleau has his fans in San Jose, but he's nowhere near as beloved as Bourque was in Boston, and that extends to a front office that's seemed to want a divorce for years. They'll move Marleau if the right deal comes along, but don't look for the Sharks to be doing him any favors.
The prelude: Indisputably the greatest "Teppo" in NHL history, Numminen broke into the league in 1988 and spent 15 seasons with the Jets/Coyotes.
The aftermath: There's a nice symmetry in seeing a guy who'd been with one team for a decade-and-a-half get swapped for Sillinger, a guy who moved around so often that his hockey-reference.com jersey list almost spills off the page. Not surprisingly, Sillinger didn't last long on his new team. But neither did Numminen, who played just one season in Dallas before signing with the Buffalo Sabres, where he'd spend four more seasons.
The lesson: Numminen serves a reminder that not every mid-30s NHLer is on his way out; he was a reasonably solid player into his 40s. With Marleau still posting decent offensive numbers at 36, let's not assume that any future destination has to be short-term.
The prelude: The blueliner debuted for the New York Rangers in 1952 and spent 17 seasons in New York; his best was in 1966-67, when he won the Norris.
The trade: Two years later, he was dispatched to the Oakland Seals during the 1969 offseason in exchange for cash. Sure, that's actually closer to being sold than traded, but this list is already short enough.
The aftermath: Howell went on to play for four seasons in California, first with the Seals and then later with the Los Angeles Kings, and then spent three more seasons in the WHA before finally retiring at 43.
The lesson: Playing hockey in California sounds pretty awesome. Then again, I'm guessing Marleau already knows that.
The trade: Pronovost was part of an eight-player blockbuster that ranked as one of the largest in NHL history to that point. The biggest piece in the deal was veteran Andy Bathgate, a future Hall-of-Famer in his own right.
The aftermath: Pronovost lasted five seasons in Toronto, and was a member of the franchise's last Stanley Cup winner in 1967.
The lesson: Go big or go home? That's probably wishful thinking in a league where the old-fashioned blockbuster is all but dead, but we can hope.
The prelude: Before he was known as a coffee chain, Horton was a rock-solid blueliner for the Maple Leafs for almost two decades, winning four Stanley Cups and being named to the all-star team five times.
The trade: On March 3, 1970, the Leafs traded Horton to the Rangers for future considerations (which turned out to be prospect Denis Dupere).
The aftermath: Horton was still a top player at the time of the deal; he'd go on to be named a first-team all-star and was the runner up for that season's Norris. Despite being 40 when the deal went down, he played four more seasons with the Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Sabres before dying in a car crash late in the 1973-74 season.
The lesson: Uh, based on this list, maybe Marleau needs to switch to defense. Can we get some forwards on here?
The prelude: Ah, there we go. Ratelle was a big center who'd blossomed into a star with the Rangers, winning the Lester B. Pearson Award in 1972.
The trade: One month into the 1975-76 season, the Rangers pulled off a blockbuster that sent Ratelle, Brad Park and minor leaguer Joe Zanussi to Boston in exchange for Phil Esposito and Carol Vadnais. The deal still ranks as one of the biggest trades in NHL history (and Esposito has never forgiven the Bruins).
The aftermath: With all due respect to the other players involved, this was viewed as the Phil Esposito trade -- the big forward had just led the league in goals scored for the sixth straight season. But while Esposito would score 184 goals in six seasons in New York, the trade worked out well for the Bruins, who built a contender around Park and Ratelle (and a dapper young coach).
The lesson: In today's NHL, the odds of the Sharks getting an even bigger star back in a deal for Marleau are basically nil. So maybe a better lesson would be a cautionary one for their eventual trading partner: The old hockey adage about the team that gets the best player winning the trade doesn't always hold true.
The prelude: Leetch had done it all in New York, winning the Norris twice to go along with a Calder, a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe. But with the Rangers on the verge of missing the playoffs for a seventh straight season, they finally embarked on a long-needed rebuild, trading away many of their veteran stars. And none was bigger than Leetch.
The trade: Leetch went to the Maple Leafs for a first, a second and two prospects.
By the way, there's actually an asterisk on this one, and it's a bit of a weird one that even many New York fans have forgotten: This was actually the second time that the Rangers had traded Leetch. The first had come the previous offseason; the Rangers sent Leetch to the Oilers on June 30 in exchange for a backup goalie and a fourth-round draft pick. No, really, that actually happened.
(The backstory to that deal: Leetch was a pending free agent, and at the time the NHL awarded compensatory draft picks to small market teams who lost players to free agency. Teams quickly recognized a loophole, and started making deals like this. The Rangers got something for Leetch's rights, the Oilers got a better pick than they gave up from the league, and Leetch re-signed in New York later that summer. Since he never missed a game in New York, we won't count this as a real trade.)
The aftermath: The Leafs had hoped that Leetch would be the final piece of a Stanley Cup puzzle, and I probably don't need to tell you how that worked out. But he played well in Toronto, and after the lockout wiped out the 2004-05 season, he returned to play one final season with the Bruins. As for the Rangers, the prospects and picks they got in return didn't amount to much.
The lesson: Are we sure Marleau hasn't been secretly traded before and we all just forgot? Let's look into that. Shady loophole trades are the best.
The prelude: This is another one that comes with a bit of an asterisk, albeit a more straightforward one: Iginla was actually a Stars' draft pick who'd already been traded once before he made his NHL debut. But the Calgary Flames were the only NHL team he'd suit up for during his first 15 seasons in the NHL, so we'll allow it. After nearly winning the Cup in 2004, the Flames faded after the lockout, losing in the first round four straight seasons. Although it eventually became apparent that a rebuild was in order, the Flames held onto Iginla through three seasons of missed postseasons before finally biting the bullet in 2013.
The trade: On March 28, 2013, the Flames sent Iginla to the Penguins for Kenny Agostino, Ben Hanowski and a first. The trade came after a widely reported deal with the Bruins fell through, apparently after Iginla decided he didn't want to go to Boston.
The aftermath: The Bruins were initially furious, and earned a measure of revenge months later by sweeping Iginla and the Penguins in the conference final. Any bad blood was apparently short-lived, because Iginla signed in Boston the following offseason. After a single season with the Bruins, Iginla signed with the Avalanche, where he continues to be an effective player.
The lesson: Make sure everyone is on the same page about that no-trade clause. Marleau has one, and has reportedly told the Sharks he'd only accept a deal to the Rangers, Kings or Anaheim Ducks. That doesn't leave Sharks' GM Doug Wilson with much room to work, and could mean a trade doesn't happen unless Marleau expands his list. Just make sure you know exactly who's on it, boys.