Photo Credit: Kyle Terada – USA TODAY Sports
Let me set the scene. It’s March 23, 1999. The Detroit Red Wings are coming off of a 5-4 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, they have won back-to-back Stanley Cups, but 70 games into the season, they are 34-30-6.
With 12 games left in the season, freshly minted, 43-year-old General Manager Ken Holland decides to go all in. March 23rd was the trade deadline day, significantly later in the season than it is now and Holland acquired defensemen Chris Chelios (37 years old at the time), Ulf Samuelson, 34, forward Wendel Clark, 32, and goaltender Bill Ranford, 32, all on the same day.
We’ll get into the trades in a minute, but let’s break down how things went after the deadline. A day later, the Red Wings beat the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 and that started an eight game winning streak. In the final four games, Detroit went 1-2-1 and finished the season 43-32-7 (93 points), good for third in the Western Conference.
The Red Wings opened the playoffs against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and they made quick work of them, sweeping them in four games while outscoring them 17-6. After round one, the Red Wings met their arch rivals, the Colorado Avalanche in round two, where they were downed in six games. The dreams of a dynasty were crushed, but it was probably the Red Wings’ most exciting Trade Deadline and something we probably won’t see again, so let’s revisit it.
DETROIT ACQUIRED CHRIS CHELIOS FROM CHICAGO FOR ANDERS ERIKSSON, A 1999 1ST ROUND PICK (STEVE MCCARTHY) AND A 2001 1ST ROUND PICK (ADAM MUNRO)
At the time, the rivalry between the Red Wings and Blackhawks ran deep and Chelios made it known that he “would never play for the Detroit Red Wings,” but it happened. When he was acquired, Chelios had 34 points (8G / 26A) in 65 games. He went on to pick up two points in 10 regular season games and four assists in 10 playoff games in 1999. After being knocked out by the Avalanche in ’99, Chelios went on to play 661 more games (93 in the playoffs) in a Red Wings’ uniform, amassing 150 (20G / 130A) regular season points with a 609 PIMS, a plus-153 rating and two Stanley Cups.
Eriksson only played in 97 games with the Blackhawks and finished his NHL career with 176 career points (22G / 154A) in 572 games between the Red Wings, Blackhawks, Panthers, Maple Leafs, Blue Jackets, Flames, Coyotes and Rangers. Steve McCarthy never developed into much of an NHL and Adam Munro went 4-10-3 in 17 career NHL games. According to Chelios, the deal was never supposed to happen, but it did and the Red Wings are happy it did.
DETROIT ACQUIRED ULF SAMUELSSON FROM NEW YORK FOR A 1999 2ND ROUND PICK (DAVID INMAN) AND A 2000 3RD ROUND PICK (IGOR RADULOV)
When this trade went down, I was just eight years old, but I already knew who Ulf Samuelsson was based off of Don Cherry’s “Rock Em Sock Em” videos never being shut off in my house (ask my parents). Samuelsson had a reputation as one of the dirtiest players in the NHL, but came to the Red Wings in the twilight of his career. He only ended up playing four regular season and nine playoff games, before being traded to the Atlanta Thrashers (yeah, them) for the dreaded “future considerations.”
Detroit didn’t win or lose this trade though. Samuelsson was on the decline, but you can barely find Inman on the internet in 2016 and Igor Radulov (older brother of Alexander Radulov) did basically what his bother would do years later, leave for Russia. He finished with 16 points (9G / 7A) in 43 career NHL games with the Blackhawks and still plays in the KHL today—seven points in 29 games with Moscow if you were wondering.
DETROIT ACQUIRED WENDEL CLARK AND A 1999 6TH ROUND PICK (KENT MCDONELL) FROM TAMPA BAY FOR KEVIN HODSON AND A 1999 2ND ROUND PICK (SHELDON KEEFE)
I can only imagine what this trade would have been like if I was 24 in 1999. All of my buddies are Maple Leafs’ fans and Wendel is like a god to Toronto fans. My buddies’ dads have Wendel jerseys (or moustaches) and they hated the Red Wings…in fact, they still do. The only Maple Leafs that I can think of that were more beloved than Wendel are Mats Sundin and Dougie Gilmore. Speaking of Sundin, did you know the only reason that he was ever a Maple Leaf was because they traded Wendel to the Quebec Nordiques in 1994 and Sundin was part of the deal? No. OK who cares.
The beauty that is Wendel Clark showed up in Detroit basically totally bald, I mean not Ryan Getzlaf, weird bald, but old man balding. The grizzled vet potted four goals and two assists in 12 regular season games and five points (2G / 3A) in 10 playoff games before going to Chicago in 2000 and wrapping up his career in Toronto later that season.
McDonnel never played a game in Detroit and only played 32 career NHL games, but had some solid years in Sweden, so that has to count for something. In terms of who we gave up. Hodson went 4-11-6 with the Lightning before retiring from hockey at 31 and Keefe had 24 points in 125 career NHL games.
DETROIT ACQUIRED BILL RANFORD FROM TAMPA BAY FOR A 1999 CONDITIONAL DRAFT PICK
This was the second trade of the day between the Red Wings and Lightning and the Wendel Clark trade this one possible. Why they weren’t done together? I don’t know. Ranford was in his 15th NHL season, which is why they only had to give up a conditional pick. After being acquired he went 3-0-1 with a 1.97 GAA and .918 SV% in four regular season starts and thrust into action in the playoffs after Chris Osgood got injured. He went 2-2 with a 3.28 GAA, .905 SV% and recorded his fourth and final playoff shutout. Ranford moved to Edmonton after 1999, where he wrapped up his career with the Oilers and is now the goalie coach in Los Angeles.
Looking back on the Red Wings’ 1999 trade deadline, they really didn’t give up a damn thing. Overall, they shipped out two players and six draft picks (one conditional) and only Chelios remained with the squad after ’99. Even though they were bounced from the playoffs that season, Chelios stayed on for two Stanley Cups and any of you that have ever been to a Detroit Tigers game can appreciate this trade because I know you’ve slammed a beer or mucked a burger at Cheli’s Chili!