Who wins the trade? Wendel Clark for Mats Sundin, 20 years later

Brian Costello
Clark 2

Hockey fans love trades. We love the adrenaline that comes with the news of a blockbuster, the potential for positive change, the photos of the inbound star in his new sweater. And we love picking them apart.

The problem is, it typically takes several years before we know who actually won a deal. Occasionally, there’s instant gratification, but more often the trades take twists and turns and beget further moves. They can take on myriad lives.

With that in mind, we bring you an installment of thn.com’s Trade Trail, a recurring feature in which we re-open a cold file from a deal that transpired five or more years ago.

This summer marks the 20-year anniversary of the blockbuster Wendel Clark trade from Toronto to Quebec for Mats Sundin and the sentiment at the time remains true today. The Maple Leafs won the deal.

But you be the judge. Here are the particulars from that June 28, 1994 deal.

The Deal

Toronto trades 27-year-old Clark, along with 27-year-old defenseman Sylvain Lefebvre, 19-year-old prospect Landon Wilson and the 22nd overall pick in the 1994 draft to Quebec for 23-year-old Sundin, 31-year-old defenseman Garth Butcher, 20-year-old prospect Todd Warriner and the 10th overall pick in the draft.

Before looking at the big names in the deal, let’s clear up the ledger on the other components.

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Rumor Roundup: Brodeur’s patience will extend into the season

MartinBrodeur

Former New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur remains available in this summer’s unrestricted free agent market. The Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti recently reported Brodeur spoke with Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay about their backup jobs, but both clubs went with other options.

Gulitti also reports Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan confirmed on June 28 his club expressed interest in the future Hall of Famer as a backup for Jonathan Bernier, but said at Brodeur’s age (42) “it’s really about fit”.  The Leafs still hold the rights to James Reimer, who has an arbitration hearing slated for July 28 unless he and the Leafs reach an agreement on a new contract.

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The NHL’s in-game entertainment experience is broken. Here’s how to fix it

Adam Proteau
Goalie Race (STEVE RUSSELL/TORONTO STAR)

The off-season is when NHL teams examine their rosters and look to improve. But as we know, there’s more to every franchise’s business dealings than the players themselves. There’s also the matter of the in-arena experience for fans who spend big money on tickets. While some teams are better at it than others, there’s lots of room for improvement in the way paying customers are entertained 41 nights per season. Here are three easy ways to do that:

1. Enough of the same old song. At the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, the same songs often are played not just game after game, but in the exact same circumstances every night. (I’m not talking about a team’s “goal song”. That’s fine.) While there are hundreds, if not a few thousand people on any given night who may only attend one or two games a year, there are many more who are season-ticketholders in attendance every night. It’s indefensible to subject them to a near-identical, cookie-cutter in-game experience, but that’s the reality in many rinks.

Instead of leaning on songs everyone has heard numerous times before, teams could either branch out and use a wide variety of music – or hire a live band that could inject some personality into the mix and react to what happens during the game with different song choices. Same goes for intermission entertainment: NBA teams have brought in retro bands to engage crowds before:

and there’s no reason NHL teams can’t do the same. It sure beats the goalie race, which may be the lamest thing ever seen in pro hockey:

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Would the Maple Leafs be even more valuable if they were actually good?

Ken Campbell
Leaf fan

When Forbes magazine came out with its 50 most valuable sports franchises Wednesday, it had just one NHL team on it. You know the one. It plays in The Center of the Hockey Universe™.

Yes, once again the Toronto Maple Leafs are ranked as the most valuable franchise in the NHL at $1.15 billion. That put the Leafs No. 26 on the list with a worth less than half of the No. 1 team, Real Madrid, but ahead of such iconic sports franchises as the Pittsburgh Steelers, Boston Celtics and Chelsea.

It’s important to note that the franchise value was based on solely on the value of the hockey team and its share of non-hockey revenue generated at the Air Canada Centre. Two years ago, 80 percent of the entire Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment empire – which includes the Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC and Marlies – was sold for $1.32 billion, which would have pegged its overall value at about $1.65 billion at the time. Read more

How Bobby Hull helped build the Oilers dynasty and how close Edmonton was to drafting Teemu Selanne

Jason Kay
draft day 1988

How much credit does Bobby Hull deserve for the Edmonton Oilers’ dynasty of the 1980s? A fair bit, according to the Golden Jet, in this edition of Throwback Thursday.

In the July, 1988 edition of The Hockey News, Hull told Stan Fischler that Oilers’ GM Glen Sather got the idea for remaking his team when “myself, Ulf Nilsson and Anders Hedberg terrorized his Oilers in the last years of the WHA. He’d get so frustrated watching us throw the puck around that he finally vowed to build a team on our (European-style) lines.”

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Toronto Maple Leafs only NHL team to crack Forbes’ list of 50 most valuable sports franchises

Rory Boylen
Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs may have only qualified for the NHL’s post-season once over the past 10 years – pulling it off in a shortened 48-game season – but they’re still the league’s most valuable franchise, according to Forbes’ annual rankings.

The last time Forbes ranked the 30 NHL teams according to value was in November of 2013. Toronto finished atop the list with an estimated $1.15 billion worth and the Rangers came in second at $850 million.

Wednesday, Forbes released its top 50 list of the most valuable sports franchises in the world. The top of the list was dominated by soccer teams, with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United taking the top three spots. Thirty of the 32 NFL franchises made the top 50 (Jacksonville and Oakland failed to make the cut) and six baseball teams made it. From the NHL, only Toronto cracked the all-world list. Read more

Rumor Roundup: O’Reilly to arbitration can’t have a happy ending

2014 NHL Awards - Inside

The NHL’s salary arbitration hearings begin Monday, July 21 through Aug. 1 in Toronto. While 23 hearings were scheduled (20 player-elected, three club-elected), as of July 15 four players – Boston’s Matt Bartkowski, Dallas’ Cameron Gaunce, Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm and Ottawa’s Derek Grant – avoided arbitration by re-signing with their teams. Another, St. Louis’ Vladimir Sobotka, has jumped to the KHL.

Most NHL arbitration cases never reach an arbiter, as players often re-sign with their teams before the hearing takes place. It’s a process both sides prefer to avoid. It’s ego-bruising for the player as management makes its case over why he’s not worth the salary he seeks. Management subsequently risks losing that player to unrestricted free agency once his arbiter-awarded contract has expired.

In most cases, arbitration is used as a negotiation tactic by both sides. For the player and management, it establishes a deadline toward reaching a new contract without negotiations dragging on into training camp and pre-season. When a team takes a player to arbitration, it’s also to prevent him from receiving an offer sheet from a rival club, except for a five-day window from July 1-5.

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The NHL’s weakest division? Um, “congratulations”, Metro

Marc-Andre Fleury

When the NHL made its most recent realignment, last season, it reemphasized the importance of divisional play by also restructuring its playoff format. The wild card element throws a bit of a wrench into it from year-to-year, but for the most part, teams have to play their first two playoff rounds against division rivals – and that means a weaker division has the potential to make the road to the Stanley Cup easier for the team that can emerge from it.

I’d argue that’s one of the reasons the New York Rangers qualified for the Cup Final this past spring. They faced a flawed Flyers team in the first round and a Penguins squad in the second that had serious issues of its own before they beat the injury-depleted Canadiens in the Eastern Conference final. You have to give the Blueshirts credit for their resilience, but they had a much easier go of it than, say, Los Angeles or Chicago.

So which division is shaping up to be the NHL’s weakest in 2014-15? It’s not in the Western Conference, that’s for sure. Six of the Central Division’s seven teams (every one but Winnipeg) have a bona fide shot at making the playoffs, and the California Trinity Of Doom, combined with the desperation to make the playoffs in Vancouver and Edmonton, makes the Pacific Division daunting as well.

So, the “honor” of the league’s worst division has to go to either the Metropolitan or the Atlantic. And although the Atlantic has seen more separation between the haves and have-nots of its teams this off-season, I’d still make the case the Metro is the weaker of the two. Read more