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The 5 Biggest Deadline Trades in New York Islanders History

Kirk Muller, however forgettable, was part of one of the biggest deadline deals in Isles history.
Kirk Muller, however forgettable, was part of one of the biggest deadline deals in Isles history.

New York Islanders fans always have their sights set on a trade to improve their club. With a slew of names being thrown around by other teams as trade possibilities, as well as some possible trade bait of our own, everyone will be clicking the refresh button on their computer to see if a move was made from now until the NHL Trade Deadline 3 p.m. this afternoon.

So with the crew at TSN holed up in a room begging for a state-mandated 15-minute break and the 2012 trade deadline barreling down on us, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the more meaningful trades Islanders management have made at deadlines past.

The Islanders have made a good amount of deadline deals over the years. Most though have had little impact in team history and very much resemble the March 6, 1990 trade that sent Jack Capuano to the Vancouver Canucks for Jeff Rohlicek.

We never saw that Capuano guy in an Islanders uniform and most deadline acquisitions never wore one either, or did little to make you remember them if they did. But Islanders brass have made a handful of major deals during the deadline frenzy. Here are the top five:

5. Janne Niinimaa and a 2003 2nd Round Pick for Brad Isbister and Raffi Torres, March 11, 2003

Isbister was a fan favorite player, scoring 57 goals in his first 3 seasons with the Islanders. But the Islanders needed help on the blueline as they marched toward the playoffs in 2003. Niinimaa provided just that, and helped the Islanders to two straight playoff appearances.

Torres, the 5th overall pick in the 2000 draft, scored 20+ goals in his first two seasons with the Oilers. In 2005-06 he scored 27 goals, a total bested by only three Islanders that season. While Torres didn't turn into much more than a solid 3rd line winger, he still plays in the NHL today, whille Niinimaa's Islanders career ended halfway through the 05-06 season.

4. Richard Kromm and Steve Konroyd for John Tonelli, March 11, 1986

Playing in his eighth season with the Islanders, John Tonelli was coming off a career year with 100 points, and had amassed 20 goals by the 1986 trade deadline. And even though the Islanders were in the thick of the playoff hunt, Bill Torrey knew his dynasty was in decline and thought it was time to slowly change the guard.

So Tonelli was traded to the Calgary Flames for Kromm and Konroyd, a deal that worked out for both teams down the stretch. Tonelli helped Calgary to the Stanley Cup finals. Kromm scored 14 points in his 14 games on the Island that year and Konroyd played solid defense, helping the Islanders make it into the playoffs for a 12th straight season.

But while Tonelli would go on to have two more 30-goal seasons in his career, Kromm and Konroyd provided little to the Islanders for the short time they remained on the Island.

3. Ryan Smyth for Robert Nilsson, Ryan O' Marra, and a 2007 1st Round Pick, February 27, 2007

In all my years as an Islanders fan, I can't remember there ever being as much excitement at the trade deadline than after the eleventh hour deal by Garth Snow to acquire Ryan Smyth from the Oilers. Sitting in 6th place in the Eastern Conference, the Islanders traded for the rental Smyth to help provide leadership going into the playoffs. While the team took a turn for the worse before coming around and making the playoffs, Smyth could hardly be blamed, scoring 15 points in his 18 games with the Islanders. His steady play continued into the Islanders only playoff appearance in the last eight years, posting four points in the five-game series loss to the Sabres.

Smyth quickly went from hero to goat when he shunned the Islanders for greener ($$$) pastures with the Avalanche. But the rental proved to be less than costly, as Nilsson, O'Marra, and eventually Alex Plante have scored a measly 38 goals in a combined 283 games played with Edmonton.

[Note: Check out this post for some fun CBC video coverage of the Smyth trade and its aftermath.]

2. Kirk Muller, Mathieu Schneider, and Craig Darby for Pierre Turgeon and Vladimir Malakhov, April 5, 1995

No deadline deal has enraged the Islanders fan base as much as the deal Don Maloney agreed to in 1995. Looking to put his own stamp on the Islanders, Maloney traded away second leading scorer Turgeon and leading scoring defenseman Malakhov for a package that included the biggest snake to ever don an Islanders jersey.

Kirk Muller was none too happy to be traded to the Island and his short stint with the team included a team barring, Muller's refusal to report, and 27 ho-hum games where Muller grossed only 15 points. Schneider only played one full season with the Islanders, but produced an all-star worthy campaign.

Turgeon went on to put up 5 more 25+ goal seasons, and Malakhov strung together 4 more good seasons with the Canadiens. The trade was the official beginning to the Islanders dark(est) days and a string of playoff-less seasons. All in all, it was one of the worst trades in Islanders history, and by far the worst deadline deal the Isles have ever made.

1. Butch Goring for Billy Harris and Dave Lewis, March 10, 1980

While the volume of this deal pales in comparison to our other four, the impact far exceeds them. Harris and Lewis were popular Islanders, playing on the Island for eight and seve years respectively. But when push came to shove, Bill Torrey made the decision that both were expendable in order to add a two-way center of Goring's caliber.

The rest is history, but I'll humor you with the details. Goring was the final piece of the puzzle for the Islanders, and the team went on to win four straight Stanley Cups. Harris only had one good season after the trade and retired in 1984. Lewis lasted a little longer, playing solid defense for eight more seasons.

While both Harris and Lewis will long be remembered by Islanders fans, nobody would argue that the Islanders made a mistake pulling the trigger at the deadline in 1980. Four Stanley Cups and countless Butch-isms later, the deal still remains the most significant deadline deal in Islanders history.