Down Goes Brown: History's best goalie-for-goalie trades

Sean McIndoe
Jul 13, 2016

Dominik Hasek (Denis Brodeur via Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News


Down Goes Brown: History's best goalie-for-goalie trades

Sean McIndoe
Jul 13, 2016

Many of the most notable goalie-for-goalie trades often end up falling into some familiar categories.

The Maple Leafs traded Jonathan Bernier to the Ducks last week. Toronto moving on from Bernier wasn't a surprise, but the timing and destination was odd, coming just days after the Leafs and Ducks had hooked up on the Frederik Andersen deal. That's led to speculation that Bernier was part of the original trade all along, but remained on the Leafs roster long enough for MLSE to pay his signing bonus on July 1.

If so, that would kind of make Bernier-for-Andersen the latest in a long line of goalie-for-goalie trades, albeit it one with some valuable draft picks heading Anaheim's way. The NHL has a deep history of this sort of deal, and that makes sense; there are only so many goaltenders out there, so it's understandable that a team trading one away would want to acquire one in return. And as it turns out, those goalie-for-goalie trades often end up falling into some familiar categories.

Today, let's look back at some of those moves. Note that we're not looking for trades that simply featured goalies on either side, which will come as a relief to Habs fans dreading another rehashing of the Patrick Roy trade. Instead, we'll focus on trades in which the goaltenders were either traded for each other straight up, or at least were clearly the primary pieces in the deal.

Here are some of history's best goalie-for-goalie trades, and the categories they fell into.

The category: The change-of-scenery trade that comes back to haunt one of the teams.

Recent example: Five years ago, the Avalanche and Senators hooked up on a trade that saw Ottawa acquire Craig Anderson in exchange for Brian Elliott. Anderson was just one year removed from a great season, but was struggling badly and seemed headed to unrestricted free agency. So the Avs flipped him for Elliott, who'd yet to impress in limited duty as Ottawa's starter.

The deal worked out wonderfully for the Senators; Anderson regained his form, signed a new contract, and is still the team's starter to this day. The Avalanche didn't fare quite as well; Elliott didn't do much in Colorado, and was allowed to hit free agency that summer. He signed with the Blues, won the Jennings the very next year, and has been one of the league's most dependable goaltenders ever since.

(A near-miss in this category: The Capitals trading Michal Neuvirth for Jaroslav Halak in 2014, then almost seeing Neuvirth lead the Flyers to a miracle comeback against them in this year's playoffs.)

Other examples: Sometimes, a team has no choice but to move on from a goaltender. That was the case in 1988, when Edmonton goalie Andy Moog held out from the team all season. The Oilers finally moved him at the deadline, sending the veteran to Boston for youngster Bill Ranford.

Months later, the two teams faced each other in the Stanley Cup final, with Moog seeing part-time duty while Ranford watched from the bench in an Oilers win. Two years later the teams met again, and this time it was Ranford and Moog going head-to-head. Ranford won the matchup and the Conn Smythe, avenging what he'd seen as poor treatment at the hands of the Bruins.

The lesson: If you're going to make a goalie-for-goalie trade, make sure it's with a team that isn't going to show up in the Cup final any time soon. So, good work there, Ducks.

The category: The trade involving the veteran that you kind of forgot played for that team

Recent example: I'll be honest; these are pretty much my favorite type of goalie-for-goalie trade. Like most of the best things in life, they were better in the 80s and 90s, but there have been some recent cases. The best of those is probably the one that sent Tim Thomas from Florida to Dallas in exchange for Dan Ellis, since barely anyone remembers Thomas playing for either one of those teams.

Other examples: Too many to name. A personal favorites saw the Senators trading Ron Tugnutt to Pittsburgh for Tom Barrasso, just in time to kick off a cherished tradition of watching their goalies melt down against the Maple Leafs in the playoffs.

Other candidates: Sean Burke going from Vancouver to Philadelphia for Garth Snow in 1998; Ron Hextall going from the Islanders back to the Flyers for Tommy Soderstrom in 1994; and, of course, the great Rick Tabaracci-for-Jim Hrivnak deadline day blockbuster of 1993.

The lesson: I may enjoy these trades a little bit too much.

The category: The trade of a former Calder winner coming off a bad season.

Recent example: At the 2013 trade deadline, the Blue Jackets traded 2009 Rookie of the Year winner Steve Mason to the Flyers in exchange for Michael Leighton and a draft pick. Mason had seen his career go downhill since his Calder win, and had lost the Columbus starting job to another one-time Flyer, Sergei Bobrovsky. The Blue Jackets dumped him on Philadelphia in exchange for Leighton, who'd helped take the Flyers to the Stanley Cup final three years earlier but was stuck in the minor leagues at the time.

The deal ended up being a big win for the Flyers; Mason reestablished himself as a dependable NHL goaltender, while Leighton never played a game for the Blue Jackets.

Other examples: None. Can't think of any. Nope. No other team has ever traded a goaltender for a struggling former Calder winner. Let's just move on.

The lesson: These trades always work out great. [Chugs from Scotch bottle.] YEP, EVERY TIME.

The category: The trade deadline deal involving two goalies, one of whom was named league MVP four years ago. Yes, I realize this seems oddly specific, but stay with me,

Recent example: In March, 2006, the Habs sent Jose Theodore to the Avalanche in a straight-up deal for David Aebischer. Theodore won the Hart Trophy in 2002, beating out Jarome Iginla because … well, nobody's quite sure, but it happened. But he'd never come close to matching that performance, and was struggling through a poor season that featured an .881 save percentage and a failed drug test.

The Canadiens cut bait at the deadline, sending him to Colorado in exchange for Aebischer, the one-time heir apparent to Patrick Roy who'd never lived up to those lofty expectations. The fresh start didn't help him much, and he played his last NHL game in 2009. Theodore, meanwhile, never regained his all-star form but was a useful player for seven more seasons.

Other examples: In February 1985, the Blues and Whalers hooked up on a four-player deal that basically boiled down to Mike Liut for Greg Millen. Like Theodore, Liut was less than four years removed from an MVP-caliber season – he won the player-voted Pearson Trophy in 1981 (while finishing second for the Hart). At the 1985 deadline, the Blues sent him to Hartford for Millen, a younger workhorse who'd led the league in games played during the previous season. Both goalies stayed in the NHL until 1992.

The lesson: The Carey Price trade at the 2019 deadline is going to be fun.

The category: The two-time Hart winner, six-time Vezina winner, first-ballot Hall of Famer who might very well be the greatest of all time, for a career backup.

Recent example: In perhaps the most famous goalie-for-goalie trade of all-time, the Blackhawks sent Dominik Hasek to the Sabres in exchange for Stephane Beauregard and a fourth-round pick during the 1992 offseason.

In hindsight, this might be the most lopsided trade of all-time. But when it happened, barely anybody noticed. Hasek was already 27 and had only played 25 games over his two NHL seasons; with Eddie Belfour firmly established as the Hawks' long-term starter, Hasek was just the weird backup with the funny facemask. He spent a year in Buffalo backing up Darren Puppa and Grant Fuhr, then immediately transformed into the best goalie in the world because hockey is a weird sport sometimes.

For what it's worth, Beauregard never played a game in Chicago. Three days after the Hasek trade, he was traded straight-up for Christian Ruuttu for the second time in two months.

Other examples: I'm going to go ahead and say none.

The lesson: Trying to make sense of anything about the Dominik Hasek era is completely futile.

Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on

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Down Goes Brown: History's best goalie-for-goalie trades