Pierre Lacroix Made the NHL Trade Deadline Fun

ENGLEWOOD, CO - JULY 09: Joe Sakic (L) is honored by Colorado Avalanche President Pierre Lacroix (R) as Sakic announces his retirement during a press conference at the Inverness Hotel on July 9, 2009 in Englewood, Colorado. Sakic played 20 years in the NHL with the same organization, the Quebec Nordiques from 1988-1995 and the Colorado Avalanche from 1995 to 2009. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
ENGLEWOOD, CO - JULY 09: Joe Sakic (L) is honored by Colorado Avalanche President Pierre Lacroix (R) as Sakic announces his retirement during a press conference at the Inverness Hotel on July 9, 2009 in Englewood, Colorado. Sakic played 20 years in the NHL with the same organization, the Quebec Nordiques from 1988-1995 and the Colorado Avalanche from 1995 to 2009. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) /
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When news broke Sunday morning that Pierre Lacroix passed away at 72, fans couldn’t help but reminisce of the many infamous trades pulled of by the former General Manager.

Simply put, Pierre Lacroix will go down as one of the best General Managers of all-time after transforming the Colorado Avalanche into a dynasty. For close to a decade, Colorado was an annual Stanley Cup contender as Lacroix was constantly adjusting his roster around franchise pillars Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg.

However, it was around the Trade Deadline that Lacroix would shine the most, as year after year during Trade Deadline season the Avalanche were always active. Between the 1998-99 to 2003-04 seasons, Lacroix would be responsible for some of the biggest Trade Deadline deals ever made.

Trading just seemed to be something Lacroix was a natural at from the moment he took over the Quebec Nordiques on May 24 1994. The first two trades he ever made involve two critical players that’d help Colorado capture the Stanley Cup just two years later.

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Stephane Yelle was the first player ever acquired by Lacroix in a trade for a 1994 11th Round Draft pick, the last year the NHL Draft had 11 rounds. Yelle would become a defensive staple as a bottom-six forward for the franchise. The perfect complement to Sakic and Forsberg, Yelle would spend seven seasons winning big faceoffs and killing key penalties while going on to capture two Stanley Cups with the Avalanche.

The second trade of Lacroix’s career involved the player responsible for scoring the 1995-96 Stanley Cup winning goal for Colorado. Uwe Krupp scored in the third overtime of Game 4 in the Stanley Cup Final between Colorado and the Florida Panthers, completing the sweep of the series for the Avalanche and capturing the franchise’s first ever Stanley Cup. Krupp, who spent four seasons with the franchise, was acquired in a swap of 1994 first-round draft picks, and Ron Sutter, who only ever played 37 games for Quebec.

It’s impressive for someone’s first two trades to work out in such a successful manner. Although they aren’t necessarily the biggest names, the contributions Yelle and Krupp provided the franchise are undeniable.

However, it wouldn’t take long for Lacroix to start chasing bigger names. In just his third trade in over a month on the job, Lacroix sent a package highlighted by Mats Sundin to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a package including Wendel Clark. Once Lacroix got a taste of a trade involving Hall of Fame talent, he was hooked.

For whatever reason, with the relocation official and the Avalanche set to take the ice in Colorado for the first time in October of 1995, Lacroix found his trading groove. In less than two months he had acquired Patrick Roy, Sandis Ozolinsh, Claude Lemieux, and Mike Keane. All were key pieces in helping Colorado go on to win the Stanley Cup later that season.

Despite several attention grabbing headlines during his first 18 months in charge, Lacroix would later be known for the front page news he’d annually make leading up to the Trade Deadline. Prior to the 1998-99 Trade Deadline he’d start the first of what would be three straight years of acquiring future Hall of Famers who had spent over a decade with their franchise.

Theoren Fleury would leave the only franchise he’d ever known as he was dealt by the Calgary Flames to become the first in a tradition for the Avalanche. Fleury was electric in his time in Colorado scoring 24 points in 15 regular season games, while following it up with 17 points in 18 Playoff games.

Unfortunately, the Avalanche would fall that season in seven games during the Western Conference Finals to the eventual Stanley Cup winners, the Dallas Stars. Fleury would leave that summer in Free Agency to sign with the New York Rangers.

A year later, Lacroix made maybe the most infamous Trade Deadline move of all-time when he acquired a pair of future Hall of Famers, Ray Bourque and Dave Andreychuk. The deal didn’t work out at first, as the Avalanche once again fell to the Stars in the Western Conference Finals in seven games that season. Andreychuk departed in free agency in the summer, but Bourque re-signed and the following season during one of the NHL’s greatest moments of all-time, Gary Thorne got to yell: “after 22 years, Raymond Bourque!”

One of the biggest reasons Thorne was able to say that is because of the deal Lacroix made prior to the 2000-01 Trade Deadline. Lacroix managed to acquire Rob Blake, a fourth future Hall of Famer in three years, and the third player in as many years to spend over a decade with one franchise.

The deal immediately paid off for the Avalanche as less than five months later Blake had contributed 19 points in 23 Stanley Cup Playoff games to help win the Stanley Cup. Blake would spend the next four seasons as a defensive pillar on Colorado’s blueline.

Pierre Lacroix
Colorado Avalanche President Pierre Lacroix (R). (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) /

Although the run on acquiring Hall of Fame players via trade was over after the 2000-01 Trade Deadline, Lacroix never rested when it came to trying to make his team better. The Avalanche never won another Stanley Cup after the 2000-01 season, but Lacroix was still busy every year at the Trade Deadline.

In 2002, he acquired Darius Kasparaitis, who was one of the biggest names available at the time. In 2003 he acquired Bryan Marchment and Bates Battaglia. In 2004, after a trio of depth deals that included acquiring Bob Boughner, Tommy Salo, and Matthew Barnaby, Lacroix made a big splash when he shipped Derek Morris and Keith Ballard to the Phoenix Coyotes for Chris Gratton, Ossi Vaananen, and a 2005 Second Round Draft pick.

Morris had cost the club Chris Drury, a major contributor to the 2000-01 Stanley Cup team, less than two years prior but wasn’t fitting in with the Avalanche. Gratton was a bust posting three points in 13 regular season games, while going scoreless in 11 postseason games. Vaananen was a depth defenseman that lasted 137 games in Colorado.

However, it was the 2005 Second Round Draft pick that saved the deal as the Avalanche would use it to select Paul Stastny. Stastny would turn into a star for Colorado, posting three 70-point seasons in his first four years with the club. Even though he did it unintentionally by not necessarily knowing the player the club would select, Lacroix still managed to acquire a stud player at the 2003-04 Trade Deadline.

Unfortunately, after that season the NHL entered a year-long lockout and returned afterwards with the introduction of the salary cap. The cap destroyed in-season trading making it difficult for teams to match dollar-for-dollar deals. Lacroix stepped down as General Manager on May 24, 2006, exactly twelve years after taking the position.

Critics today will say Lacroix had it easy to make deals with no salary cap, yet every other team was playing under the same rules he was. Some teams didn’t have as much money to work with as the Avalanche did but some teams had even more and still couldn’t pull off the trades Lacroix was able to.

As the New York Rangers were spending more than any team and missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Lacroix was acquiring key contributors to championship teams. As the Toronto Maple Leafs were top-five in team salaries and couldn’t make it to the Finals let alone win, Lacroix’s teams won twice and appeared in four Western Conference Finals, losing to the eventual Stanley Cup winner each time.

Some would say he paid a high price for his Deadline deals, however, a closer look at the deals suggests otherwise. As despite all his wheeling and dealing, Lacroix never suffered an embarrassing bad deal at the Trade Deadline. He never surrendered an asset that came back to haunt him. Arguably the biggest name in his many deals would be either Adam Deadmarsh as a part of the Blake trade or Brian Rolston as part of the Bourque trade and nobody would reverse those deals.

Next. 2020-21 a prove it season for Sabres and Eichel. dark

There will never be another general manager like Pierre Lacroix, who swung for the fences and wasn’t afraid to make big deals or constantly tinker with the lineup. He made the Trade Deadline into an annual television tradition in Canada with his big moves as he always made that time of year fun to be a fan. Mostly importantly, he always made his team a contender.

Rest in Peace, Pierre Lacroix.