We continue rivalry week here at SB Nation by hopping in Dr. Brown’s DeLorean and going back in time to some of the Penguins’ biggest trades with their biggest rivals.
Let us start with one of the most impactful rivalry trades, and one that helped produce the Penguins’ second Stanley Cup during the 1991-92 season.
Penguins acquire Rick Tocchet from the Philadelphia Flyers
This was an absolutely massive three-team trade involving the Penguins, Flyers, and Los Angeles Kings that saw a couple of Hall of Famers — and a bunch of excellent NHLers — change teams.
It started with the Penguins sending Paul Coffey to Los Angeles for the Kings’ first-round draft pick, Brian Benning, and Jeff Chychrun.
They then turned around and sent Benning, the Kings’ first-round pick, and an in-his-prime Mark Recchi to the Flyers in exchange for Tocchet, Ken Wregget, and Kjell Samuelsson.
Even though the Penguins were the defending Stanley Cup champions and were returning a stacked roster (with Scotty Bowman as coach!) they had still hit a mid-season lull. On the day of the trade the Penguins were just 27-24-7 on the season and 5-12-3 in their previous 20 games. They were struggling and needed something to spark them.
While trading Coffey will always be a controversial decision in my mind (not only is it Paul freaking Coffey, but he was one of the most significant additions in franchise history) you can not argue with the results here.
Tocchet gave the Penguins a dimension they did not have (an elite power forward) and helped turn the season around, eventually resulting in a second consecutive championship. He was a force during that run. He finished the regular season with 14 goals and 30 total points in 19 regular season games before adding 19 more points in 14 playoff games.
He would play two more seasons in Pittsburgh before being traded to the Kings for Luc Robiitaille.
Samuelsson and Wregget also proved to be stellar pickups adding some significant depth on defense and in goal.
In terms of established star power involved (Coffey, Recchi, Tocchet) this is one of the biggest trades in franchise history and involved their biggest rival (the Flyers).
Wheeling and dealing with the Rangers
Throughout the mid-1990s and early 2000s the Penguins made a handful of massive trades with the New York Rangers — some of them involving the same players.
This journey begins in the summer of 1995 when the Penguins traded Robitaille to the Rangers as part of a package for a young superstar defenseman named Sergei Zubov and forward Petr Nedved.
Even though Zubov and Nedved would not be long for Pittsburgh they were absolutely fantastic in their brief time with the team.
Zubov’s 1995-96 season remains one of the best single season performances by a defenseman in Penguins history, while Nedved would have the two best offensive seasons of his career as a member of the Penguins.
Despite Zubov’s immediate success, he would be traded to the Dallas Stars for Kevin Hatcher after just one season.
Nedved, meanwhile, would enter into a contract dispute following the 1996-97 season and would never play another game for the Penguins. He was finally traded BACK to the Rangers in November of 1998 in a deal for Alexei Kovalev.
Kovalev would play parts of five seasons in Pittsburgh and, if I am being honest, is still one of my favorite players that I ever watched up close. His skill level was obscene and he proved to be a perfect fit for the Penguins’ style of play.
Like Nedved, he was eventually traded back to the Rangers in 2003 in a massive salary dump trade for what amounted to a bunch of spare parts (Mikael Samuelsson, Rico Fata, Joel Bouchard, and Richard Lintner).
Darius Kasparaitis comes from the Island
In November of 1996 the Penguins acquired one of the most feared players to ever wear the logo when they acquired Kasparaitis and Andreas Johansson from the New York Islanders in exchange for Bryan Smolinski.
By this point Kasparaitis had already established himself as an outrageously physical defenseman (and had already proven to be a thorn in the side of the Penguins) and brought some serious grit to the blue line. He would leave a significant mark during his time with the team by not only delivering one of the most infamous hits in modern NHL history (the one that started Eric Lindros’ concussion issues), but by also scoring one of the biggest goals in franchise history when he beat Dominik Hasek in Game 7 of the 2001 second round.
Jaromir Jagr went to ... which team?
You already know all about this one and this situation.
At the end of the 2000-01 season Jagr’s time with the Penguins had run its course and it was a foregone conclusion that he was going to be on the move.
It was just a matter of when, where, and for what. Speculation mostly surrounded the two New York teams (Rangers and Islanders) with the Capitals lurking as a possibility. In the end, it turned out to be the Capitals for Kris Beech, Ross Lupaschuk, and Michal Sivek. Talent for talent, it is the worst trade in franchise history. What made it all so shocking was not just the lackluster return (even at the time it seemed bad, no matter how many times Craig Patrick tried to talk about Beech like he was a young Ron Francis) but that Jagr was going to the Capitals.
At this point the Penguins-Capitals rivalry had already reached a boiling point given all of their postseason meetings, with Jagr and the Penguins winning all but one of the matchups. Sometimes in humiliating fashion for the Capitals. Now Jagr was on the other side of it.
But while none of the three prospects worked out for the Penguins, Jagr was not exactly a success story in Washington. There was just no real fit between him and the team and his two-year run with the Capitals would prove to be by far the worst seasons of his career. He was eventually traded to the New York Rangers for Anson Carter and would almost immediately regain his superstar form.