Recently, there have been a lot of trade trees here on BlueLineStation, so let’s follow it up with another one because that seems fun. Today, we’re going to go back a long time to 1975. We will examine a trade between the New York Rangers and the Boston Bruins. This is the Jean Ratelle trade tree between two of the original six and a trade that is still among the biggest in NHL history.
If you are too young to remember Jean Ratelle, he was one of the terrifying Goal-A-Game line back in the 1960s and 70s alongside the late great Rod Gilbert and Vic Hadfield. Ratelle scored 109 points in 1971-72. That was a Rangers record that stood until 2006, when Jaromir Jagr broke it. That’s all good, but he did it in just 63 games. He missed almost a quarter of the season with an injury. He could have sailed past the 130-point mark easily.
He was the premier star for the Rangers. During his 16-year career on Broadway, the Lac St-Jean, Quebec native scored 336 goals and 481 assists for 817 points. That remains the third-highest total by any New York Ranger ever. Only Gilbert and Brian Leetch sit above him. Ratelle is a franchise icon, and you will see his number hanging from the rafters at Madison Square Garden if you go to a Rangers game. He was named one of the NHL’s best 100 players in 2017.
On November 7, 1975, Jean Ratelle was traded to the Bruins. He was packaged with Brad Park and Joe Zanussi. We’ll get to what the trade itself was in a little bit, but I want to talk about the other two guys here a little bit first. If you have followed the Rangers for a while, you have heard the name of Brad Park.
Park himself is actually in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The Toronto Native played in 465 games as a member of the New York Rangers, scoring 95 goals and 283 assists for 378 points. He did this as a left-shot defenseman. Park, too was named into the NHL’s 100th anniversary’s 100 greatest players. Zanussi played in 2 games as a Ranger before he was traded in this package.
So, the Rangers sent Ratelle, Park, and Zanussi to the Bruins in exchange for Carol Vadnais and Phil Esposito. Looking back at this deal, there are three members of the Hockey Hall of Fame in this deal, and Esposito is the third. This is a monster deal that doesn’t get talked about as much when we mention the big trades in NHL history. Gretzky’s deal to LA and Lindros to Philadelphia come up, but this may be bigger.
We’ll start with Vadnais on the Rangers side. He played seven years in New York, scoring 56 goals and 190 assists for 246 points in 485 games. Not bad for a defenseman. Vadnais wasn’t dealt out of New York. He was just serviceable for a long time as a member of the Blueshirts. He wasn’t quite what Brad Park was for the organization, but he was good in his own right.
As for Phil Esposito, He retired as a Ranger after spending six years on Broadway. In 422 games, he scored 184 goals and 220 assists. Phil Esposito was also named in the NHL’s 100th Anniversary team and is in the Hockey Hall of Fame himself. While this does mean that the Rangers branch comes to an end quite abruptly, it’s just so cool to look back at a trade this monumental.
As for the Bruins side, let’s start with Ratelle. He would retire with the Bruins for six seasons in Boston, scoring 155 goals and 295 assists for 450 points in 419 games. It was not the rampant production the Goal-A-Game line had in the previous decades, but his retirement in 1981 saw the end of an era for Rangers hockey. He stepped away from the NHL, meaning there’s no branch here either.
Brad Park was also not traded. He spent eight years in Boston playing in 501 games, scoring 100 goals and 317 assists for 417 points. May’s a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, but he’s somewhat unique in that his legacy is split almost perfectly across two different franchises. His number has not been retired by either, with the Bruins opting to retire 22 for Willy O’Ree instead.
Now, we get into the player that was traded. Joe Zanussi spent two years with the Bruins, scoring one goal and eight assists for nine points in 68 games. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues in 1976 for Rick Smith. Rick Smith wasn’t traded, but he did come back to the Bruins for five seasons. He started his career in Boston and had 36 goals and 125 assists for 161 points across 513 games over eight seasons in Boston throughout his career.
With that, we reach the end of a trade tree that feels like it should be a lot longer. When you consider that there were three Hockey Hall of Famers in this deal, it feels like it should be a deal that spans decades. It doesn’t because of the age of Esposito and Ratelle specifically. It perhaps could have been better if it had been done earlier in their careers, but this was one of those that feels like it should go on forever.