It’s been 12 years since Chris Pronger forced a trade out of Edmonton, and as the years pass more tidbits continue to emerge from the tale.
During a Wednesday morning appearance on the Starting Lineup on Toronto’s Sportsnet 590, Brian Burke was asked at one point to revisit the Pronger deal following a mention of the recent Erik Karlsson trade.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever told the whole story,” noted Burke. “We’re at the draft that year and Edmonton - Scott Howson was the assistant GM - and Edmonton went to, I believe, four teams. I’d have to ask Scotty. But they dropped off a sheet of paper, like a folded note. It was like dropping a note on a kid’s desk in grammar school. And I open it up, and it said, ‘Laddy Smid, Joffrey Lupul, first-round pick.’
“And we’re like, ‘A first-round pick right now? Like this pick?’
“And they’re like, ‘No, it can be next year.’
“So we’re like, ‘Okay, we’ll do it.’
“And we couldn’t do it. The league kiboshed it because we had a tagging room problem. It’s not just that you had to be cap-compliant, you have to have so much room going forward to take on a contract, and we didn’t have enough tagging room.
“So I said to Kevin Lowe - this is when we were still talking (chuckles) - I told Kevin, ‘Look, we’ll do this deal. But we can’t do it now. We have to wait until after July 1 and move a couple of things.’
“He said, ‘Okay, you’ve got a deal.’
“So then he was driving, Kevin was driving to the Shuswap. He spends his summers in the Shuswap, and he was driving there and we made the deal.
“He said, “I’m gift-wrapping the Stanley Cup Final for you if I trade you Chris Pronger, and you’re in our division.’
“I said, You know what? I think you are too. And you’re right, so we’ll put another first in. If we play in the Final, you get another first.’
“So it ended up being Lupul, Smid, a first, and a conditional first.
“And Kevin said, ‘Do you want me - we’ll call the league right now.’
“I said, ‘Kevin, I trust you. Keep driving. You drive, and we’ll do it tomorrow.’ So we did it the next day. ‘
“So yes, we were worried. We knew those other three teams for sure were in, and we assumed other teams were.”
In addition to Ladislav Smid, Joffrey Lupul, the conditional draft pick, and the first round pick the following summer, the Oilers also received a second-round pick from the Ducks in that trade.
Later in the conversation on 590, there was some good-natured chiding of Burke for throwing in that extra conditional pick in the trade when it didn’t seem necessary.
“Well first off, it’s a pretty cheap bet, right,” countered Burke. “You only pay the first if you’re in the Final. And guess how many times I’ve been in the Final? One. So do the math here, folks. There’s 31 teams. So you’re due - your team, if you’re a Senators fan or if you’re a Panthers fan, your math is in your lifetime you’re probably going to see one Cup, if it’s mathematically sound, every 31 years a team is going to win a Cup.
“That’s the problem with expansion, is it dilutes your chances of winning. It’s not like the CFL. If a guy plays 10 years in the CFL, there’s a good chance he’s got a ring, right. It’s not like that now.
“And we didn’t have a deal. Kevin was balking at that. He was like, ‘I’m not sure I’m going to do this. Even though I said I’d do it, I’m not sure I’m going to do it.’ And I think if I hadn’t put the pick in, he wouldn’t have done it.
“He’s not bound by that. If I drop a piece of paper off on your table, that’s not saying, ‘Okay, if you agree to this we have a deal.’
“It’s like, ‘Okay, this is what we’d take from your team, but we just dropped off three other pieces of paper too.’
“So I don’t think I had that deal. I don’t think I just gratuitously gave him another first. I think he would have waited.
“But I’ll pay that price tomorrow. If you tell me I’m back in Calgary and I throw in the first and I play in the Final - give me a phone.”
The Ducks beat the Senators in that 2007 Stanley Cup Final.