New York Rangers: The ten worst trades in franchise history

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 31: Rick Nash
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 31: Rick Nash /
11 of 11
1976: Rick Middleton #12 of the New York Rangers skates on the ice during an NHL game circa 1976. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)
1976: Rick Middleton #12 of the New York Rangers skates on the ice during an NHL game circa 1976. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images) /

#1-Rick Middleton traded to the Boston Bruins for Ken Hodge.

May 26, 1976

Rangers general manager Emile Francis had pulled off one of the biggest trades in hockey history when he swapped Jean Ratelle, Brad Park and Joe Zanussi for Phil Esposito and Carol Vadnais in the first month of the 1975-76 season. Esposito had averaged almost a goal a game in eight years in Boston, but with 29 goals in 62 games, the Rangers had seen his productivity fall by half.  How were they to fix this problem? The answer seemed like an easy one.

Ken Hodge had established himself as Esposito’s right wing. For eight seasons he was on the highest scoring line in hockey and had seasons with 62 and 55 goals. Even without Espo as his center, Hodge still scored 25 goals in 1975-76. Reuniting Hodge with Esposito was a natural solution and Emile Francis picked up the phone and made the deal.

Rick Middleton had played two seasons with the Rangers. As a rookie, he scored 22 goals in only 47 games. In his sophomore season he slacked off a bit, scoring 24 goals in 77 games. It would take Middleton to pry Hodge loose from the Bruins and Francis was ready to make the trade.

How did it work out?  Describing this trade as a disaster would be an understatement.

Hodge played one season and 18 games in a second season as a Blueshirt. His one full season was fine as he scored 21 goals and had 62 points in 78 games and he finished his Rangers career with 23 goals and 68 points in 96  games. What he didn’t do was return Esposito to the goal scoring heights he had achieved in Boston. After seasons of 76, 66, 55, 68 and 61 goals, Esposito scored only 34 goals in his one full season with Hodge.

Meanwhile, Rick Middleton played 12 full seasons for the Bruins and scored 402 goals.  He averaged over a point a game, finishing with 898 points in 881 games. He topped the 40-goal mark five times with a high of 51 goals in 1981-82. He added 100 points in 111 playoff games for Boston. A second team all-star in 1982, he won the Lady Byng Trophy in 1982 as well.

It’s ironic that Phil Esposito made three of the worst trades in Ranger history and was a prime player in the worst deal ever.

Next. Five players that you completely forgot were Rangers. dark

Is there a trade that you would throw on the list that isn’t here? Let us hear it by tweeting @BlueLineStation with the trade you think deserves to be on this list.