There are many moves Craig Patrick made during his tenure as Penguins GM that have been applauded and it’s because of those impressive deals that many of his lousier trades have been forgotten. Unfortunately what he did on March 20, 1996 could very well be called the worst trade in the history of the NHL and it is one that will always be remembered.
Much like the controversy surrounding this weeks trade with Vancouver it was nearly 20 years ago that Pittsburgh made one of the most controversial trades of all time and it just so happens that the other team involved was The Canucks.
The 1991 First round pick Markus Naslund started to impress in his third training camp with the Penguins, held prior to the 95/96 season. He was labelled in the media as “Mr. September”, referring to his ability to show promise before struggling once the season began. Due to the departures of All-Star left-wingers Kevin Stevens and Lucky Luc Robitaille from the Penguins, Naslund had an opportunity for a more prominent role with the club in 1995–96. He played on the second offensive unit with winger Jaromír Jagr and center Francis during training camp before being moved up to the first line with Lemieux and showed an immediate improvement, starting the season with 36 points in 29 games. He recorded his first NHL career Hat-trick on 28 November 1995 in a 7–2 win over the Senators. However, his production slowed later in the season; he was scratched on several occasions and was demoted to the third and fourth lines by February.
According to the book “100 Things Penguins Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die” Head Coach Eddie Johnston had soured on the 22 year old Swede. While there was undeniable talent there, there were questions about Naslund’s character.
It was then on March 20, 1996 that Craig Patrick made a deal with the Vancouver Canucks to acquire Alek Stojanov, a 6’4″ 220lb player who was selected seventh overall in the 1991 Entry Draft.
Despite not showing much in his 58 games with the Canucks in 1995-96 (0 goals 1 assist) The belief was Alek would turn into a prolific power forward as he possessed ‘soft hands” and strong offensive instincts.
During his time on the Penguins Stojanov was never known for his “soft hands” but rather his fists. During his Penguins debut he went toe-to-toe with Buffalo’s Bob Boughner. Then in the 1996/97 season Alek became the Penguins fierce enforcer winning 5 of his 7 fights that year.
Unfortunately that December Stojanov was injured in a car accident and the following season returned to the ice in the minor leagues.
Now on the Flip side Markus Naslund made his way to Vancouver and never looked back. Playing 11 seasons for the Canucks serving as their captain for much of his tenure he found himself receiving All-Star honors and even winning the Lester B. Pearson (Ted Lindsay) Award. In 2008 Naslund left Vancouver as the teams all-time leading scorer.
(Sources: Wikipedia & “100 Things Penguins Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die”)
Thanks for reading.
– Robert Slavinsky