Picture of Wayne Gretzky holding the Stanley Cup. Gretzky was part of one of the 5 worst trades in NHL history.
What are the 5 worst NHL trades in history? Was it Gretzky to the Kings? Hull to the Blues? Nelly to the Bruins?

Everyone enjoys a good trade rumour and the excitement of a new face arriving at your team can create a real buzz. Not every trade works out for the best though and the past is loaded with busts.

What are the worst trades in NHL history? Let’s find out.

Teemu Selanne, 1996 (Winnipeg Jets to Anaheim Mighty Ducks)

Teemu Selanne’s first taste of the NHL came as part of the Jets franchise and he delivered the goods with them racking up a haul of 306 points in just 231 games. Despite that impressive tally, the Jets allowed Selanne to leave in 1996 and whilst it proved to be one of the worst trades in NHL history for the Jets, it was a career making move for the player.

Selanne joined the Mighty Ducks. His first full season saw the winger put up over 100 points while Years two and three saw him lead the league for goals scored. It was a pattern that continued throughout his time in Anaheim.

Selanne’s face and name became synonymous with the Mighty Ducks and, even today, he is widely regarded as one of the best players in the Ducks’ history.

Patrick Roy, 1995 (Montreal Canadiens to Colorado Avalanche)

The Canadiens thought they were getting a good deal when they swapped Patrick Roy (and Mike Keane) with a trio of players from Colorado Avalanche but that is not remotely how the trade worked out.

The disaster of the deal was predominantly showcased by Roy. After already showing himself to be a top-tier goaltender in Montreal, he went on to establish himself as a mainstay in goal for the Avalanche. Roy arrived in Colorado, defying the odds to win Stanley Cup and lifting the trophy twice from his time in Montreal. From the Canadiens’ side at least, it can be summed up by the fact Roy starred as the Avalanche triumphed in another duo of Stanley Cups. The Canadiens meanwhile had a few years of achieving next to nothing.

Cam Neely, 1986 (Vancouver Canucks to Boston Bruins)

Sometimes you can understand a trade, other times you can see logic in what the selling organisation are trying to do. With Cam Neely’s move from Vancouver to Boston though there is just no sense to be made of the deal.

Neely had shown himself to be a star already having bagged 51 goals and 53 assist across three seasons. Regardless of those stats, the Canucks were happy to trade Neely. Neely and a first round draft pick headed off to Boston for Barry Pederson, who spent three years with the Canucks before going in the another direction.

The Bruins enjoyed the upside of that trade with the Canucks left kicking themselves. Neely stayed in Boston for a decade to see out his career. During that time, he became respected as one of the greatest goal scorers in the league and a Bruins fan favorite.

Brett Hull, 1988 (Calgary Flames to St Louis Blues)

On paper, bringing in a defender like Rob Ramage makes a lot of sense – or at least it would have back in the late eighties. What doesn’t make sense is letting go a young rookie who is already putting up eye catching statistics. That’s exactly what happened here though with the Calgary Flames letting go of a rookie Brett Hull that was averaging more than a point per game.

It turned into a nightmare trade for the Flames. Ramage, who was the pick of the two players arriving in Calgary as part of this deal, was onto the next chapter within 12 months while the other, Rick Wamsley, was just a depth option. The St Louis Blues we’re laughing though.

With the Blues, Hull continued to build on his early promise and ended up playing in St. Louis for 11 years – and 936 points – later. He was inducted to the hall of fame in 2009 as a result. That’s a serious ‘swing and a miss from, the Flames.

Wayne Gretzky, 1988 (Edmonton Oilers to LA Kings)

Last but not least we have the one and only Wayne Gretzky. His exit from Edmonton happened in the same year as Hull’s Flames-Blues trade but was somewhat of a different scenario with financial issues playing a major role in the Oilers letting Gretzky leave.

Gretzky headed for Los Angeles with nearly everyone knowing he was the best player in the NHL. The question is how he’d transition to a new team. It turned out that he’d handle it very well.

Gretzky continued to score goals and contribute points at an alarming rate down in LA. In fact, that’s the biggest understatement we could make. Gretzky, who continues to set records today, put up 918 points in just 539 games for the Kings.

There you have it, the worst NHL trades in history.


  1. The worst trades in the author’s _lifetime_. Any article that claims it has the “best” or “worst” but only runs from the late 1980s onward is by someone who doesn’t know squat about the game. This is true whether it’s hockey, baseball, football, or anything pro or collegiate.


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