On Aug. 4, 1997, the Philadelphia Flyers made a move that seemed innocent at the time but is still seeing its impacts in the league today. It evolved into a trade tree with over 200 deals and several players still active in the league today.
In said move, the Flyers actually didn’t even trade Mikael Renberg, who is the focus of this trade tree. What they did was extend an offer sheet to Tampa Bay Lightning forward Chris Gratton, which totaled $16.5 million over a five-year span. The Lightning chose not to match, and received four first-round draft picks from the Flyers as compensation.
Two weeks later on Aug. 20, 1997, the Lightning packaged every single draft choice and sent them to the Flyers. This is where the real trade tree begins. The Flyers sent their veteran forward in Renberg as well as defenseman Karl Dykhuis to Tampa Bay in exchange for a 1998 first-round draft pick, a 1999 first-round draft pick, a 2000 first-round draft pick, and a 2001 first-round draft pick.
What these picks became is important to note. They became the following players:
- Simon Gagne (1998 first-round pick)
- Maxime Ouellet (1999 first-round pick)
- Justin Williams (2000 first-round pick)
- Tim Gleason (2001 first-round pick)
A couple of these players had incredible and lengthy NHL careers, but that is simply how the trade tree begins.
How the Trade Tree Evolved
The evolution of this trade tree is a bit difficult to recap on its own. One of the main reasons why this tree became what it is today was because of a deal over a year later that saw the Flyers and Lightning swap the players they received right back, ironically enough.
In the deal, the Flyers received Renberg and Daymond Langkow, while Tampa Bay received forwards Gratton and Mike Sillinger.
Related: Flyers Trade Tree: Daymond Langkow’s 20-year Influence
Langkow was later flipped to the Phoenix Coyotes for a 2003 first-round pick as well as a 2002 second-round pick. The significance of that first-round choice was that it became Jeff Carter, a player who has been traded multiple times for some substantial packages.
The 2002 second-round pick is notable because it was involved with yet another trade involving the Flyers and Lightning that had nothing to do with the original transaction. The Flyers packaged forward Ruslan Fedotenko and two second-round draft picks, including the one in the Langkow trade, to land the fourth-overall pick in the 2002 NHL Draft, which Philadelphia used on Joni Pitkanen.
With the six goals that Fedotenko scored against the Flyers in their Eastern Conference Final bout in 2004 aside, this deal was vital in continuing the legacy of this trade tree.
When the Flyers flipped Pitkanen along with a couple of other assets to the Edmonton Oilers on July 1, 2007, one of the players that Philadelphia acquired was Joffrey Lupul; a player involved in another massive trade tree that is so massive it has a video of its own.
These deals served as the foundation of the tree, and why it is still flourishing today. Without them, it would have likely died off several years ago.
Significant NHL Trades Linked to the Tree
After the major trades that built this tree occurred, many subsequent trades transpired as a result.
One of these deals was the trade that sent Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets. In the trade, they sent forward Jakub Voracek and a 2011 first-round draft pick to the Flyers in exchange for the star centerman. Unfortunately for Columbus, Carter didn’t last long there, while Voracek became a star producer for the Flyers and the first-round pick they gave up became Sean Couturier – an active member for Philadelphia all these years later.
Through a series of trades, the Renberg trade tree links to the deal that sent star forward Artemi Panarin to the Blue Jackets. Columbus received him, Tyler Motte, and a 2017 sixth-round pick while giving up Brandon Saad, Anton Forsberg, and a 2018 fifth-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks in return. This was a very regrettable decision for Chicago that gets brought back to light in part because of a trade that occurred two decades prior.
In more recent years, the tree also involved the deal that sent Ryan O’Reilly from the Buffalo Sabres to the St. Louis Blues. For the future Conn Smythe winner, Buffalo received Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, a 2019 first-round draft pick, a 2021 second-round draft pick, and most notably, Tage Thompson.
This tree also covers the deal that sent forward Pierre-Luc Dubois to the Winnipeg Jets from Columbus, who received Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic in return. Obviously, this means that the tree also covered the trade that sent Dubois to the Los Angeles Kings, as well.
Current Star Players Involved with the Tree
There are countless star players that are still currently involved with this trade tree, even though they are no longer counted if they sign with another team in free agency.
Some significant players that are involved in this trade tree that have yet to be mentioned are:
How the Trade Tree is Helping the Flyers
Some of the impacts of the Renberg trade range from minor to major in the case of the trade tree, but the fact is that a trade in 1997 still links to some moves today. Current roster players on the Flyers that were a part of the tree include Tippett, Couturier, and Atkinson. Even their general manager (GM) Danny Briere was involved in this tree before he signed with the Flyers. With loads of draft picks and young players still active in this tree, it doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. It might just be the beginning.