We were asked to come and save the day for Puck Daddy’s Summer Series, “What if?” This is what we came up with. Enjoy
There are times when we don’t truly appreciate just how much the Eric Lindros saga shaped a good portion of the NHL. These days we look back on it and kind of just think of it as more hockey silliness, as the NHL is the only league where a team could somehow agree to trade one player to two teams and then have an arbitrator take nearly two weeks to figure out just what the hell happened. And yes, 25 years later it still sounds ridiculous.
But let’s consider what this was: what if Connor McDavid had pulled an Eli Manning and told the Oilers he wouldn’t play there before they even took him, which we all assumed he was going to do after THAT expression on lottery night decided his fate, and the Oilers took him anyway? And what if McDavid made good on his threat and never left Erie? And then the Oilers were forced to trade his rights the next year at the draft, setting off perhaps the greatest auction in NHL history?
Because that’s what Lindros was. He was the NEXT. He was Earl Campbell on skates. I saw him before the ’91 Canada Cup shrug off a hit from Chris Chelios in a warm-up game between Canada and the US. Chelios charged about half the width of the rink to get him, and Lindros brushed him off like his nose itched. Chelios went flying, and Lindros barely deviated from his path. He would go on to be one of the more dominating players in the league, and he was open for bidding! Has that happened since? Basically only when Jaromir Jagr bitched his way out of Pittsburgh as the league’s best player been on the trade block.
While the actual controversy took place between the Rangers and Flyers, most in the know had it that during the draft of ’92 Mike Keenan had engineered a deal before either of them that the Nordiques has accepted to send Lindros to the Blackhawks. Getting exact details on it is difficult, but most agreed it was centered around Ed Belfour, Steve Larmer, and Steve Smith. There were a few other names involved, and draft picks, and a ton of money going a couple ways; a $10 million check to Lindros himself and a bunch more to the Nordiques. Of course, when all this was presented to Bill Wirtz, assuming he was awake at the time, he would have turned… well, a different shade of purple than he normally was, spit up a bathtub of bourbon and probably try to hit Keenan with a phone.
But had Keenan caught Wirtz on a good day… or maybe just asleep, or maybe like Mr. Burns after a morphine binge, the shape the future of multiple NHL teams could have been greatly altered. So…what if the Blackhawks had traded for Eric Lindros?