When the New York Rangers acquired defenseman Justin Braun from the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday, it marked a truly rare occurrence. It was only the sixth trade in 45 years between the Rangers and Flyers since 1967 when the Broad Street Bullies joined the NHL in the first major expansion.
Of the six trades, one wasn’t really a trade. We’ll explain that later. But one of the deals was a blockbuster featuring a future Hall of Famer. The good news is none of the deals ended up one-sided in favor of the Flyers. For the most part, both teams ended up okay.
It’s been 18 years since the teams made a swap with the last trade in 2004 and like that one, this year’s deal was at the trade deadline. Let’s take a look at the deals.
Deal #1: June 6,1969
Reggie Fleming was a fan favorite in New York, not for his scoring prowess, but for his willingness to hit and drop the gloves. He still scored 15 and 17 goals in two seasons, but he was notable for leading the Rangers in penalty minutes all four of his seasons with New York. The 33-year old played one season in Philadelphia, scoring nine goals and was second on the team with 134 penalty minutes. He was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1970 expansion draft.
Don Blackburn played all of four games in two seasons as a Rangers property, spending most of his time in the AHL. He was drafted by the Islanders in the 1972 expansion draft. He’s best known as the first coach of the NHL Hartford Whalers.
Leon Rochefort was a Ranger for all of three days, traded with Dennis Hextall to the Los Angeles Kings for Real Lemieux. Lemieux played 55 games in New York before being traded back to the Kings for left winger Ted Irvine.
So, in essence, this trade was an aging Reggie Fleming for Ted Irvine. Irvine played five years as a regular for the Blueshirts, an important part of the team that made it to the 1972 Stanley Cup Final.
Who won this deal? Ultimately it was the Rangers as Fleming played only one season in Philadelphia while Ted Irvine was an excellent player for a number of years.
Deal #2 – June 2, 1978
This was a bizarre one. In 1978, coach Fred Shero resigned after winning two Stanley Cups with the Flyers and signed to coach the Rangers. In order to avoid tampering charges, the Rangers gave the Flyers cash and their 1978 first round pick, number seven overall.
Fred “The Fog” Shero coached the Rangers for two full seasons, taking them to the Stanley Cup Final in his first year and a fourth place finish the following season. In his third year, with only four wins in their first 20 games, Shero stepped down as coach.
The Flyers used the draft pick to select Ken Linseman, affectionately known as “The Rat.” Linseman was an agitator who ended up playing 14 seasons in the NHL, most notably with Boston though he won a Stanley Cup with the Oilers in 1984.
Who won the deal? Although Shero’s tenure was short, he did get the club to an unforgettable playoff run in 1979, all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. Linseman played only three full season with the Flyers so a slight nod in the Blueshirts’ favor.
Deal #: 3: December 18, 1986
In the 1986-87 season, the Rangers weren’t desperate for back up goalie for John Vanbiesbrouck. Though he had won the Vezina Trophy the year before, the Rangers had traded backup Glen Hanlon to Detroit, but they had veteran Doug Soetart to replace him.
The word was out that the Flyers were shopping Froese who had replace Pelle Lindbergh who had been killed in a car crash and finished as runner up to Vanbiesbrouck for the Vezina. However, Froese had lost his starting job to Ron Hextall so the Flyers were looking to trade him.
Phil Esposito made this deal more to keep Froese away from other teams, sending the Flyers a draft pick and huge defenseman Kjell Samuelsson who was in his first full NHL season. The Swede was nicknamed the “human tripod” because he was immovable at 6’6″, 235 pounds.
As a tandem, Vanbiesbrouck and Froese were one of the better goaltending duos in the NHL for three years until Mike Richter appeared at which point, the 31-year old Froese hung up his pads.
Kjell Samuelsson played 14 seasons as a defensive defenseman in the NHL, the first six with Philadelphia, later joining the Penguins where he was a Stanley Cup in 1992. As for the draft pick, the Flyers selected Swedish left winger Patrik Juhlin who played 56 games over two seasons before returning to Europe.
Who won the deal? Let’s call this one a draw as both teams benefited equally. Froese was a solid backup for New York and Samuelsson filled a key role on the Flyers blue line.
Deal #4: August 20, 2001 (The big one)
This was one of the biggest deals in Rangers franchise history. Almost a decade after the Blueshirts thought that they had traded for Lindros in 1992, they finally got their man. Glen Sather traded three young players to the Flyers along with a draft pick for the rights to Lindros, a restricted free agent who was engaged in a bitter contract dispute with Flyers GM Bobby Clarke.
Lindros had sat out a full season after suffering a concussion in the 2000 playoffs from a check by the Devils’ Scott Stevens. Sather was desperate to make a big move after failing to acquire Jaromir Jagr who the Penguins had traded to Washington.
Going to Philadelphia was 28-goal scorer Jan Hlavac, defenseman Kim Johnsson and former first round (#4 overall) pick Pavel Brendl along with a 3rd round pick. The Rangers got one of the best power forwards in NHL history who had a history of concussions. Lindros played two full seasons in New York before another concussion ended his career with the Rangers. He was a point-a-game player and All-Star in his first season.
The Flyers flipped Hlavac to Vancouver for Donald Brashear and Pavel Brendl never lived up to his billing as a top four draft pick. With their third round pick they selected right winger Stefan Ruzicka who played a handful of games for the Flyers before finishing his career in Europe.
It was Kim Johnsson who turned out to be the most valuable acquisition for Philadelphia. The Swedish defenseman had been the final pick of the 1994 Entry Draft, #286 overall. After two years in New York, Johnsson went on to play nine more years in the NHL as a solid defensive blueliner. Four of those seasons were in Philadelphia and he also played in Minnesota and Chicago.
Who won the deal? This one goes to the Flyers by a nose. LIndros basically played one good year in New York and they never made the playoffs while he was a Ranger. The Flyers got great value in Johnsson along with a trade chip in Hlavac.
Deal #5: March 8, 2004
This was the last time the Rangers made a trade with the Flyers and it was part of the wholesale fire sale conducted by Glen Sather at the trade deadline. Gone were Brian Leetch, Alexei Kovalev, Petr Nedved, Jussi Markanen, Mathew Barnaby, Martin Rucinsky, Greg DeVries, Chris Simon and the player traded to the Flyers, defenseman Vladimir Malakhov. Considering that Sather made trades with a third of the NHL teams that March, it’s small wonder that the Flyers were included.
Malakhov had been a heralded free agent signee in 2000 after winning a Stanley Cup with the Devils as a late season rental. Stealing him away from New Jersey was seen as a coup, though he was hampered by injuries much of his time with the Rangers. He was 35 years old when the Rangers unloaded him to the Flyers. He played six games in the regular season for the Flyers, but suited up for 17 games in the playoffs. He signed after the season with the Devils.
Like most of those 2004 deadline deals, the trades didn’t work out well for the Rangers. The Rangers got right wing prospect Rick Kozak who never played an NHL game. The Rangers flipped the draft pick to Atlanta along with their first round pick (#16) to move up in the draft to 12th overall and they selected Marc Staal.
Who won the deal? In the long run, the deal benefited the Rangers more than the Flyers. Although Malakhov helped the Flyers make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, he was a rental. The draft pick the Rangers got was used to draft Marc Staal who was a cornerstone of the Blueshirts’ defense for 13 years. Curiously, the Rangers original second round pick was traded to Atlanta who used it to select goalie Ondrej Pavelec who ultimately ended up in a Rangers uniform in 2017-18.
Deal #6: March 21, 2022
It took 18 years, but the Ranger and Flyers were finally trade partners, this time with the Flyers being the deadline sellers for the first time. We may not know for years how this deal will work out. A lot depends on how much Justin Braun can contribute as a veteran defenseman with more playoff experience than any current Ranger.
Draft picks take years to develop, even more for prospects taken after the first two rounds. So, we will revisit this in 2028 when it will be time to give a final grade to this trade.
In looking at the history of trades between the Flyers and Rangers, it’s remarkable how there was really no example of outright theft. The teams are wary of trading with each other with both teams in the same division and 94 miles apart. Other than the Lindros deal, all of these transactions have to be seen as having the least potential for a negative impact on either team. There’s no doubt that the same will apply to the latest one.