1994 trade deadline still remains biggest in New York Rangers history

The New York Rangers made a great run to the Eastern Conference Final this past season. A lot of the team’s playoff success had to do with key acquisitions at the NHL Trade Deadline.

First year GM Chris Drury pulled off some incredible moves to close major holes in the lineup. Here’s a quick recap of those deals.

  • Andrew Copp and a 2023 sixth-round pick for Morgan Barron, (2) conditional second-round picks in 2022, and a 2023 fifth-round pick
  • Tyler Motte for a 2023 fourth-round pick
  • Justin Braun for a 2023 third-round pick
  • Frank Vatrano for a 2022 fourth-round pick

For argument’s sake, we included Vatrano even though the deal occurred 5 days prior to deadline.

“They’ve all contributed. I think our scouts and staff did a great job identifying those guys as targets and we were fortunate enough to pull off the deals to get them,” Drury said during the playoffs. “They’ve certainly fit and been used extremely well by [Gerard Gallant].”

Despite those great moves, to which the Rangers did not relinquish a single roster player to obtain them, they did not win the Cup. That’s why the 1994 Trade Deadline still remains the biggest and most talked about in franchise history.

New York Rangers 1994 Trade Deadline

new york rangers
Rangers Esa Tikkanen (10) checks Vancouver’s Martin Gelinas (23) during game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals at Madison Square Garden June 14, 1994. The Rangers won the game 3-2 and the Stanley Cup. Rangers Win Stanley Cup

The architect of the 1994 Cup squad, Neil Smith spoke with Forever Blueshirts this summer regarding a wide-range of topics. When it comes to that trade deadline, Smith has been quoted often in the past. However, in this interview he wanted to make clear that all those moves were his alone.

“Believe me when I say, Mike Keenan had nothing to do with the trades that I made,” Smith proclaimed. “I just knew he wanted the player if I got him.”

So let’s breakdown the moves with insights from the GM himself:

  • Tony Amonte and Matt Oates to Chicago Blackhawks for Stephane Matteau and Brian Noonan

If the Rangers don’t win the Cup in 1994, this deal would go down as one of the worst in hockey history. Amonte was just 23 years-old at the time but already had 84 goals in 234 games with the Rangers, including back-to back 30+ goals seasons in his rookie and sophomore year.

“I’ve always said since day one, of all the trades I’ve made that was the worst one,” he explained. “But without Noonan and Matteau you don’t win the Cup.”

  • Mike Gartner to Toronto Maple Leafs for Glenn Anderson, Scott Malone, and a 4th round pick (Alexander Korobolin)

Everyone knows that Keenan was no fan of Mike Gartner’s game for whatever reason. Sadly, he just didn’t like how the future hall of famer that scored 708 career goals played.

“Glenn Anderson for Gartner,” Smith began. “I could’ve said Paul Anderson for Gartner and he would’ve said, ‘yes.’

While Smith didn’t want to trade Gartner, his reasoning behind the move made a ton of sense.

“Keenan was going to mess up our Stanley Cup if I don’t trade Gartner,” he reveals. “He was not going to play Gartner and I wanted to take away any of his excuses.”

In hindsight, Keenan would’ve absolutely have either benched or scratched Gartner in the playoffs. It shouldn’t be forgotten that in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Devils, an angry Keenan benched Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, and Adam Graves. The situation was so bad that Messier had to plead with him before Game 6 not to pull another stunt like that again.

  • Todd Marchant to Edmonton Oilers for Craig MacTavish

When it comes to the Rangers acquiring key shutdown center MacTavish, it was Smith’s persistence in hounding then Oilers GM Glen Sather to get him.

“Keenan never even asked about MacTavish. It was me from the beginning of the season bugging Sather for him,” Smith admitted. “Finally, we got to the deadline and Sather wanted Eric Cairns. I said ‘no’, but offered him Todd Marchant and he agreed.”

Smith humorously recalls how Sather was angry believing he was misled on Marchant’s small stature (5-10, 179 lbs). It wasn’t until Smith pointed out that he was wrongly looking at Todd’s brother’s info that Sather realized his error. Terry Marchant, who never played in the NHL was 6-1 and 205 lbs. Edmonton would later select him in the 6th round of the 1994 draft.

  • Peter Anderssonn to the Florida Panthers for a 9th round pick (Vitali Yeremeyev) and Phil Bourque to the Ottawa Senators for future considerations

Smith moved both these players simply because they needed roster space.

In the end, Smith’s reputation as ‘Big Deal Neil’ was on full display that spring day. On March 21, 1994, he went for broke and hit pay dirt in just his fifth season as a general manager. The rest is history as his Rangers ended a Stanley Cup drought that had lasted 54 years.

“I thought Neil did a fabulous job,” Kennan said. “Neil brought four players who will all play for the hockey club. Only two of the four we lost would have played a significant role. We really improved our depth, which is critical in the playoffs.”

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