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The Joe Thornton Trade Somehow Got Worse 15 Years Later

Longtime NHL exec and friend of the program Brian Burke did a Twitter Q & A last night and dropped this nugget...

The biggest criticism about the Joe Thornton trade, other than the return and, you know, the trade itself, was that then-GM Mike O'Connell didn't shop the big center around nearly enough. Lots of GMs didn't even know he was available and even O'C admitted it's possible he should've created more of a market. And last night's #AskBurkie session hammered that point home with authority. 

For the eventual MVP, O'C landed a second-liner (Marco Sturm), a bottom six guy (Wayne Primeau), and a defenseman who had zero desire to stay in the Northeast when his contract expired a year-and-a-half after being acquired (Brad Stuart). To call the return underwhelming would be an understatement. But if he dealt with Burkie, he would've gotten not only more assets but one of the following: Teemu Selanne, Scott Niedermayer, Andy McDonald, Joffrey Lupul, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Francois Beauchemin, or J.S. Giguere. No matter which five Burkie protected, O'C would've still ended up with a stud.

Because the Bs would've been parting with their top center, it's likely they would've asked for one of either 20-year-old Getzlaf or 22-year-old Lupul, who both still would've been on their first (read: cheaper) deal. The Bs also would've gotten a prospect, another current Duck, and the 19th overall pick (with a chance to draft Claude Giroux or package it with their 5th overall pick to move up). Burke's Tweets reminded us again just how much O'Connell butchered setting a market for a guy who would lead the league in scoring that year.

The great irony, of course, is that without making the move, the Bruins might not ever win the Stanley Cup. It opened up money to bring in Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard in a stunning double-signing the following summer. And flipping Stuart and Primeau to Calgary, just 15 months after the Thornton trade, eventually help yield key defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference. Even so, the shine of the Cup doesn't take the stink of shit off of that trade.