New York Rangers: Five worst days in team history

Mark Messier of the New York Rangers. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)
Mark Messier of the New York Rangers. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images) /
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Defenseman Brian Leetch (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images) /

#3 The purge

March 3, 2004 is a day that is remembered forever as the day that the Blueshirts turned their back on the greatest player to ever wear the uniform.  It was the day that the Rangers traded Brian Leetch to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Headed for a seventh straight year of missing the playoffs, General Manager Glen Sather decided to go for broke and unload all of the team’s assets at the trade deadline. No one was exempt and in just seven days, Sather made nine swaps and traded Leetch, Alex Kovalev, Petr Nedved, Vladimir Malakhov, Jussi Markkanen, Matthew Barnaby, Chris Simon, Greg de Vries, Martin Rucinsky and Paul Healey.   The Rangers got 15 players and six draft picks in return.

If a wholesale purge ever didn’t work, this is the one. In exchange for all of those players, the new acquisitions played all of 518 games for the Rangers, scoring 37 goals and totaling 87 points.  The two goalies played 41 games with a won-lost record of 14-17.

Of the six draft picks, the only one to make it to the NHL was defenseman Michael Sauer who played 98 games in  a little over a year before being forced into early retirement due to concussions.

Alex Kovalev alone went on to play 479 more games in the NHL, scoring 139 goals and 352 points. Most of the other players the Rangers traded didn’t have much success after they left New York with the lockout that cancelled the next season affecting many of them.

As for Leetch, his departure was more symbolic than necessary.  He only played 15 games in Toronto and signed with the Bruins the year after the lockout, finishing his career in Boston.

If the team had netted any kind of haul for Leetch, trading him might have seemed more palatable, but Jarko Immonen and Maxim Kondratiev have become answers to a trivia question.  The one pick that did work out was Sauer, until he was sidelined by concussions.

After the lockout season the newly reconstituted Rangers, led by Jaromir Jagr and the “Czechmates” along with rookie Henrik Lundqvist,  finally got back into the playoffs.  It would have been a nice sendoff for Leetch to end his Rangers career in the postseason.  With the purge, that was not to be.