Down Goes Brown: Made a dumb trade with the Cup champ? You win the Conned Smythe

The playoffs are over, a new champion has been crowned, the champagne is flowing, and it’s time to focus on the question on every fan’s mind as we watch the winners celebrate: Which dummy went and handed it to them?

No? Just me? It’s possible. But every time there’s a new champ, part of me wants to scan their roster and figure out which key players they stole from some other team. I don’t care about the guys they drafted and developed, or even the savvy free-agent signings. I want the guys that they got in a trade, especially if they ripped off the other team to make it happen.

Today, I’m creating an award for that dumb team, in recognition of their impact on the championship: The Conned Smythe.

Here’s how it will work. We’re going to go through every Cup winner of the cap era, check their roster for any key players that they stole in a trade with a dumber team, and award the Conned Smythe to that helpful donor. For repeat champs, the same player can’t win twice, so it will get tricky on a few teams but we’re up to it. The key factors in determining each year’s winner will be the importance of the player and the lopsidedness of the trade. The deal can be from that season or years before, but we’re not counting trades for draft picks that became players. And I hope it goes without saying that we can use the full powers of hindsight to point and laugh at deals that didn’t work out. Sorry NHL GMs, it turns out I’m way smarter than you as long as I’m sitting on my couch and it’s 15 years later.

Nobody ever wins a championship alone, but some teams have more help than others. Let’s hand out some fake spite-based hardware.

The year: 2006

The champs: Carolina Hurricanes

The candidates: We start off with a tough call right out of the gate, because the Hurricanes featured several important players who came over in trades, including midseason pickups Mark Recchi and Doug Weight. But I think our two best options are captain Rod Brind’Amour, who arrived in a 2000 trade for holdout Keith Primeau, and clutch specialist Justin Williams, who arrived in 2004 and only cost them half a season of Danny Markov.

Rod Brind’Amour hoists the Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006. (Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)

Brind’Amour was arguably the team’s most important star, but Primeau was at least a decent player while the Williams deal was a much bigger heist. This one is a really tough call. Except it’s not, because William and Brind’Amour were both provided by the same team. Thanks for the championship, Bobby Clarke!

And the Conned Smythe winner is … Philadelphia Flyers

The year: 2007

The champs: Anaheim Ducks

The candidates: The Ducks used free agency to land two of their biggest names, Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer. They did get Francois Beauchemin in a smart deal with the Blue Jackets, and they stole Sammy Pahlsson from the Bruins way back in 2000. And you could absolutely make a case for another 2000 deal, the one that saw them land starter J.S. Giguere from Calgary for just a second-round pick.

But in the end, I don’t think this one is all that tough a call. It has to be Chris Pronger, right? Sure, they paid a decent price to get him out of Edmonton, including a pick that turned into Jordan Eberle, and we can’t really blame the Oilers because their hands were tied. But Pronger was an absolute force in the 2007 playoffs, and there’s no chance the Ducks win it all without him. They make this trade again 100 times out of 100.

And the Conned Smythe winner is … Edmonton Oilers

The year: 2008

The champs: Detroit Red Wings

The candidates: This will be one of the toughest calls on the whole list, because the 2008 Wings were almost entirely homegrown — of their top-10 playoff scorers, only Brian Rafalski had ever played a game for another team, and he was a UFA. Chris Osgood and Dominik Hasek had both left and then returned, but they came back as free agents, and Chris Chelios wasn’t really a factor by this point.

In the end, I think there are two possibilities. One is Brad Stuart, who’d come over from the Kings at the deadline for two draft picks. That would be an OK pick, if not an especially sexy one. But let’s reach back further. A lot further, in fact, as we recognize long-time Red Wings checking line mainstay Kris Draper, and the $1 transaction that brought him to Detroit.

And the Conned Smythe winner is … Winnipeg Jets

The year: 2009

The champs: Pittsburgh Penguins

The candidates: The core was built through high draft picks, and guys like Sergei Gonchar and Ruslan Fedotenko were free agents. But they did swing a deal at the deadline, and it worked out well despite coming cheap. Bill Guerin only cost them a third-round pick, and went on to finish third in team scoring.

And the Conned Smythe winner is … New York Islanders

The year: 2010

The champs: Chicago Blackhawks

The candidates: The Hawks will be tricky over the course of their trilogy, as we enter the era where our “no repeat winners” rule will limit us. But for now, the 2010 title was Chicago’s first in forever, so we have a few options. It’s not much more than a few, though, because this team was basically draft picks and free agents. Kris Versteeg only cost them Brandon Bochenski, and he was decent in the playoffs. But I think there’s a clear winner here, and it’s Patrick Sharp, who came over back in 2005 and somehow only cost them a third-round pick.

Hey look at that, we have our first team to win the Conned Smythe twice, not to mention the first to win it for helping the team that beat them in the final.

And the Conned Smythe winner is …  Philadelphia Flyers

The year: 2011

The champs: Boston Bruins

The candidates: The Bruins were a very trade-heavy team, and while guys like Tomas Kaberle cost more than they should have, we still have plenty of options. Mark Recchi was a cheap add from Tampa, and Chris Kelly only cost a second from Ottawa. But I think we can jump at the rare opportunity to double-up on the same trade here, as the Bruins landed both Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell from the Panthers for Dennis Wideman and two picks. One of those was a first, but it only turned into Derek Forbort, so in hindsight we can say the Bruins got two full-time forwards for a Cup run without giving up all that much they’d regret.

And the Conned Smythe winner is …  Florida Panthers

The year: 2012

The champs: Los Angeles Kings

The candidates: The Kings are another team that built their Cup-winning roster with some important trades, and it’s tempting to go with another Justin Williams pick after they got him from Carolina for Patrick O’Sullivan and a second. There’s also yet another Flyers option in Mike Richards, but he didn’t come cheap. Instead, I think we go with a Flyer-once-removed and take the obvious pick here: Jeff Carter, who sulked his way out of Columbus and only ended up costing the Kings Jack Johnson and the pick that became Marko Dano.

And the Conned Smythe winner is … Columbus Blue Jackets

The year: 2013

The champs: Chicago Blackhawks

The candidates: Now things get tricky, as we start running into repeat champs. We have a few options, though, including getting Johnny Oduya from the Jets for two picks. I’m tempted to consider Michael Frolik from Florida, since that trade involved the immortal Hugh Jessiman. But I think we can go with a cheap deadline pickup that paid off, as the Hawks nabbed veteran Michal Handzus from the Sharks for just a fourth-rounder, then saw him finish seventh in team scoring in the playoffs.

And the Conned Smythe winner is … San Jose Sharks

The year: 2014

The champs: Los Angeles Kings

The candidates: Look, Blue Jackets fans, don’t act like you didn’t know how this was going to play out.

And the Conned Smythe winner is … Columbus Blue Jackets

The year: 2015

The champs: Chicago Blackhawks

The candidates: The last of the Hawks wins is by far the toughest, as the only player in their top-10 playoff scoring list who’d played elsewhere is Brad Richards, who was a UFA. They were active at the deadline, but the two biggest additions were OGWACs Kimmo Timonen and Antoine Vermette, and neither came cheap. Vermette at least had a crucial overtime goal, and the first they gave up for him only turned into Nick Merkley, so I guess that trade is our winner.

And the Conned Smythe winner is … Arizona Coyotes

The year: 2016

The champs: Pittsburgh Penguins

The candidates: The Penguins are back after seven years, and they’ve traded for guys like Patric Hornqvist and Carl Hagelin, plus Chris Kunitz has become a key piece. But with all due respect to those guys, this one comes down to how you feel about the Phil Kessel trade. On the one hand, that deal actually aged reasonably well for the Leafs, if only because it helped them tank for the Auston Matthews pick. I actually named it the decade’s best example of a trade working out for both teams. On the other hand … it’s Phil Kessel, man. Screw it, he got robbed of the Conn Smythe that year, I won’t steal his Conned Smythe too.

And the Conned Smythe winner is … Toronto Maple Leafs

Phil Kessel with the Penguins. (Brace Hemmelgarn / USA Today)

The year: 2017

The champs: Pittsburgh Penguins

The candidates: Our first back-to-back champs didn’t add all that much aside from Nick Bonino, but there was one key addition from the previous year that ended up being crucial to this run. That would be Justin Schultz, who came over from Edmonton at the 2016 deadline for just a third-round pick. He was good for the Pens in that year’s Cup run, but in 2017 he had to take over from Kris Letang as the team’s key offensive threat from the blue line. He responded by ranking fifth in playoff points.

And the Conned Smythe winner is … Edmonton Oilers

The year: 2018

The champs: Washington Capitals

The candidates: The Caps were notoriously quiet at that year’s deadline, but that’s OK because we can dig back further. Just about everyone on this team was either a draft pick or a free agent, although Lars Eller is an option on the trade side. There’s a better one, though, because T.J. Oshie was the team’s fourth-leading playoff scorer and basically only cost them Troy Brouwer.

Don’t worry Blues fans, I’m guessing you’ll enjoy the next entry more.

And the Conned Smythe winner is … St. Louis Blues

The year: 2019

The champs: St. Louis Blues

The candidates: Lots of options here, including Brayden Schenn and Alex Steen. But while I’m hoping there was some suspense for most of these, the 2019 Conned Smythe was a unanimous vote that I’m pretty sure the winning team’s fans were already nodding about as soon as they saw the premise. It’s like the old cliché goes: Any time you can trade away the leading scorer on a Cup-winner for a handful of magic beans, you have to do it. Ryan O’Reilly becomes the first player to earn the Conn Smythe and the Conned Smythe at the same time.

And the Conned Smythe winner is … Buffalo Sabres

The year: 2020

The champs: Tampa Bay Lightning

The candidates: The Lightning are tricky because one of the key elements of their roster-building was being willing to overpay for depth guys on affordable contracts. Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow were crucial pieces, and Tampa would do those deals again, but I’m not sure anyone views them as especially lopsided.

Luckily, we can go back further, which gives us a chance to use Ryan McDonagh or Mikhail Sergachev, both of whom played big minutes on this blue line. I suppose there’s still a chance that Nils Lundkvist turns into a player for the Rangers, so let’s go with Sergachev, a young stud who the Lightning got in return for a guy who didn’t want to play for them. We’re all rooting for Jonathan Drouin to get back on track in Montreal or elsewhere, but until then this trade remains a steal for the Lightning.

And the Conned Smythe winner is … Montreal Canadiens

The year: 2021

The champs: Tampa Bay Lightning

The candidates: I suppose we could just drop in McDonagh here, even as his production continued to wane. But let’s go with a seemingly smaller deal that ended up paying off nicely for Tampa: Sending Ben Bishop to the Kings in 2017 for prospect Erik Cernak. Most of us went “Who?” and chalked it up as a steal for L.A., but Bishop didn’t stick around and Cernak has become a key piece of the Lightning blue line. Once again, hindsight makes this all so easy.

And the Conned Smythe winner is … Los Angeles Kings

The year: 2022

The champs: Colorado Avalanche

The candidates: We’ll end on yet another tough call, although this time it’s not because of a lack of strong candidates. Joe Sakic is pretty good at this job, as you may have heard, and we could come up with more than a few solid options just based on this year’s deadline work.

Instead, let’s focus on two absolute heists that were crucial to building this year’s Cup winner. The first was getting Devon Toews from the Islanders for just a pair of second-round picks. The other was prying Nazem Kadri away from the Maple Leafs for Tyson Barrie and Alex Kerfoot. In both cases, Sakic took advantage of a team that was motivated to sell and got an all-star-level player for peanuts.

It’s a tough call. Toews is the better player, but the Islanders haven’t even used one of those picks yet, so we can’t really say for sure how bad the deal will end up looking for them. Meanwhile, Kadri just scored the overtime winner that tilted a Cup final, and the Leafs only kept Barrie for one year. You could choose either team for sure, but I’ll go with the Leafs just because I wouldn’t want Kadri to get mad at me.

And the Conned Smythe winner is … Toronto Maple Leafs

(Top photo of Nazem Kadri: Geoff Burke / USA Today)

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