When launching a column that discusses trades from the Flyers past, it is difficult to start anywhere else but the deal that brought Eric Lindros to Philadelphia.
Lindros was the prized possession of the 1991 NHL Entry Draft and was selected first overall by the Quebec Nordiques. In a unique situation, Quebec decided to use their number one selection on Lindros even though the London, Ontario native made it clear he would never play for the Nordiques. Much to owner Marcel Aubut’s dismay, young Lindros stuck to his word and refused to play in the Nation Hockey League until he was traded.
A year later, Lindros got his wish as Quebec agreed to trades with both the Flyers and the New York Rangers. Yes, you read that correctly. The Nordiques agreed to deals with two teams, keeping the Lindros saga going for at least a bit longer.
In the trade with the Flyers, Philadelphia agreed to send Steve Duchesne, Peter Forsberg, Ron Hextall, Kerry Huffman, Mike Ricci, the 1992 and 1993 first round picks, $15 million. The Rangers deal included Tony Amonte, Alexei Kovalev, John Vanbiesbrouck, Doug Weight, three first round picks (1993, 1994, 1996), and $12 million. The Flyers believed that they had an agreement with the Nordiques first and filed a complaint. As a result, the NHL hired an independent arbitrator to make a determination.
Eleven days after the deals were made, a decision was made in favor of Philadelphia. The arbitrator, Larry Bertuzzi, determined that the Flyers and Nordiques agreed to a trade 80 minutes before the Rangers had an agreement with Quebec. Unfortunately, Philadelphia had already used their 1992 first round pick on Ryan Sittler, and Quebec had interest in acquiring him. Instead, Bertuzzi concluded that the Flyers would send Chris Simon and the 1994 first round pick. The two first-round picks from Philadelphia turned into Jocelyn Thibault and Nolan Baumgartner.
With the Flyers, Lindros became an elite player. After missing the playoffs in his first two seasons, he assisted Philadelphia in becoming a real contender but could never help them accomplish their ultimate goal, winning the Stanley Cup. In 486 games with the orange and black, Lindros recorded 290 goals and 369 assists. Also, he scored 40 or more goals in four of his eight seasons with the Flyers and won the Hart Memorial Trophy in the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season. Although his relationship with the Flyers organization was sometimes rocky, Lindros was honored with having his number (88) retired by the franchise on January 18, 2018.
Looking back at the trade, it is difficult to determine whether the Flyers made the right decision dealing for Lindros. They surrendered an incredible amount, including Forsberg who went on to have quite an astonishing career himself. Ahead of the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, Lindros was viewed as the next “generational” NHL talent. Although he had a successful career he never quite reached that “generational” status.
Whether or not you believe Philadelphia made the correct decision acquiring Lindros for that bundle of assets, it is hard to ignore the uniqueness of the entire ordeal that took place. It is hard to imagine a similar situation ever occurring again.