The best trades in NHL history are the ones you can look back on and say a team gave up very little and got something in return. In November of 1988, the Canadiens gave up a very replaceable fighter, for a consistent goal scorer.
Most of the trades already on this list are deals in which the Habs gave up a decent player but got an even better return. You could even argue both teams came out as winners in a few of those trades.
The Minnesota North Stars did well getting the aforementioned Courtnall in a 1992 trade with Montreal, but Brian Bellows was a leader in the Canadiens Stanley Cup win the next spring.
When the Habs acquired Pierre Turgeon and Vladimir Malakhov in 1995, they got two great players, but the New York Islanders got a declining, yet still very useful Kirk Muller, and Mathieu Schneider who would be one of the top scoring defencemen in the NHL for the next ten plus seasons.
However, there was no questioning who won the trade that sent John Kordic to the Maple Leafs for Russ Courtnall in 1988.
Kordic had shown plenty of promise as a young prospect in the Western Hockey League after being drafted by the Canadiens in the fourth round of the 1983 draft. He scored 81 points in 71 games during the 1984-85 season split between the Portland Winterhawks and Seattle Breakers. Kordic played a very physical style, serving between 227 and 235 penalty minutes in each of his three seasons in the WHL.
Hopes were high for Kordic, a kid who could score, hit fight and play in all situations in Junior, but his dominant game did not travel with him to the NHL. In 115 career games with the Habs, spread over four seasons, Kordic scored just 17 points, while piling up 335 PIMS.
Though he was quickly earning a reputation as nothing more than a goon in the NHL, the Canadiens sent him to the Maple Leafs for a 23 year old Courtnall who had already reached the 20 goal plateau three times with the Leafs.
He struggled in the opening month of the 1988-89 season, which led to the trade, but picked up his goal scoring abilities when he arrived in Montreal.
Courtnall averaged 25 goals per season in his last three campaigns in Toronto, and remained the model of consistency in Montreal by scoring 23, 27 and 26 goals in his three full seasons with the Canadiens.
Courtnall would play 250 games with the Montreal Canadiens, and scored 82 goals and 195 points in that time, while also helping the Habs to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with the team.
During the 1991-92 season, Courtnall was injured and played just 27 games. His 7 goals in those games put him on pace for 21 over a full season. He was then traded in the summer of 1992 for Brian Bellows who brought a nearly unparalleled playoff scoring resume with him, and helped the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup in 1993.
Kordic was also traded in the 1991-92 season, but not for a 40 goal scorer with a career point per game pace in his 100 playoff games. Kordic was traded from Toronto to the Washington Capitals, along with Paul Fenton for a fifth round selection.
Whatever upside the Maple Leafs saw in Kordic, it did not develop in Toronto, as he scored just 16 points in 104 career games in the Maple Leaf. Kordic’s 446 penalty minutes in those 104 games show you what he was spending his time doing while in Toronto.
Kordic may have been a great fighter, but no scrapper is worth dealing a perennial 25 goal scorer for.
Tags: Montreal Canadiens