Flashback: When The Nordiques Traded Eric Lindros to the Rangers and Flyers At The Same Time

On June 22, 1991, the Quebec Nordiques selected Eric Lindros with the first overall pick in the 1991 NHL Draft.

Lindros though, refused to sign with Quebec and instead played another season of Junior hockey in Oshawa and with the Canadian Olympic team.

This is a look back through the NY Times archives of the time where Eric Lindros was traded to the Rangers and the Flyers.

On January 11th, 1992, it was reported that Quebec was starting to soften on their stance of refusing to trade Lindros. Neil Smith reportedly made an offer for Lindros that was deemed “inadequate”

On May 15th, 1992,
following the Rangers playoff elimination, it was reported that the Rangers were going to try and acquire Lindros from the Nordiques and that Neil Smith believed he had the backing of the parent company of MSG, Paramount, to invest financially in an impact player like Lindros.

On June 20, 1992, Neil Smith announces that the Rangers are in serious talks to acquire Lindros from Quebec. Smith met with the GM of Quebec until 4:30AM one night and Smith followed that by saying, “I only know what we can afford — it’s a substantive amount we can give up. I don’t know if other teams can beat that. We’re not going to rip the team apart for anything. This is going to be a complicated deal. I have to get back to them and push my way into line. They are clearly in the driver’s seat. They have something everybody wants.”

The paper wonders if the Rangers would move Brian Leetch, or Tony Amonte, or Alex Kovalev and Sergei Nemchinov, in addition to the possibility of trading John Vanbiesbrouck or Mike Richter. Other potential players that could be made available would be Mike Gartner, Darren Turcotte, Doug Weight and James Patrick.

On June 21, 1992, Eric Lindros was traded to both the Rangers and the Flyers and an independent arbitrator was set to decide the case. Quebec appears to side with the Rangers on the matter even though they may have struck a deal with the Flyers first, “It is believed that the Nordiques reached potential terms on a trade with the Flyers first this morning, but then continued talking with the Rangers. The Flyers apparently believe they had a final deal, but the Nordiques apparently thought differently.”

The rumored package that the Rangers were offering to Quebec was believed to include players like Brian Leetch, John Vanbiesbrouck and Alex Kovalev,

On June 22, 1992, Larry Bertuzzi is named the arbitrator who will decide the case between the Rangers and the Flyers. Players from the Rangers who are rumored to be in the deal for Lindros are James Patrick, Tony Amonte, Alex Kovalev, Sergei Nemchinov and Mike Richter or John Vanbiesbrouck. For the Flyers, the rumored players are Rob Brind’amour, Mark Recchi, Mike Ricchi, Steve Duchene and Ron Hextall. It is also being reported that as much as $20 million may also be sent to Quebec.

Bertuzzi’s role in the matter is to determine which team “reach a conclusive agreement with the Nordiques.” Many people within the league believe that the Rangers struck a deal with Quebec and may have even signed a paper saying so.

June 24, 1992, Tony Amonte is reportedly upset about being mentioned in trade talks and isn’t sure he will report to Quebec if he is traded. John Vanbiesbrouck is also in a situation where the players union says he can become a UFA while the league says he is an RFA. Vanbiesbrouck and Neil Smith were negotiating a new multi-year deal worth more than $1 million per season but the talks were stalled when the Lindros controversy occurred.

Amonte’s agent commented, “He understands the Rangers’ point of view, he was treated very well there and he knows in some respects that it would be an honor to be part of the famous Lindros trade. Tony wouldn’t have any problem going back to New York. It’s not like it’s Tony Amonte for two draft picks. But he likes New York and the way he was treated last year. He’s hoping Philly gets Lindros in the trade.”

June 29, 1992: The arbitrators decision is expected to come in the next day or so.

June 30, 1992: The decision on where Lindros will play will be announced today. The Rangers expected offer for Lindros is up to three first round picks, $20 million, Alex Kovalev, Tony Amonte, Doug Weight, John Vanbiesbrouck and possibly James Patrick.

July 1, 1992: The decision is that the Flyers and Nordiques shook hands on a deal for Lindros at 10:30 on June 20th and that was 80 minutes before the Rangers and Quebec came to their deal.

The Flyers traded Ron Hextall, Steve Duchene, Kerry Huffman, Peter Forsberg, Mike Ricci and $15 million to Quebec for Lindros.

The Rangers reported offer was John Vanbiesbrouck, Tony Amonte, Doug Weight, Alex Kovalev, $12 million and first round picks in 1993, 1994 and 1996. Had Vanbiesbrouck been declared a UFA, James Patrick would be been substituted into the deal.

The Rangers reportedly set the framework of a deal up 3 weeks before but ran into issues with their parent company at Paramount in regards to the finance issues of the deal. Smith needed approval for the amount of money going back to Quebec and could not agree to the deal without approval from Paramount.

The Flyers started talking to the Nordiques on June 19th and the next day they accepted the terms that Quebec set out and received Eric Lindros’ phone number, which arbitrator Bertuzzi says was “critical.”

July 1, 1992: Smith says that he is disappointed the Rangers didn’t acquire Lindros but that it may prove to work out better and give the Rangers more depth. “We’d like an all-star team for New York,” Smith said. “We’d like to upgrade the team. But I don’t feel like we lost anything. It’s possible we’ll be stronger this way for the 1992-93 season. We would have hurt our depth.”

July 2, 1992: Filip Bondy writes in the paper, that Paramount is to blame in this situation and had they “been 80 minutes more aggressive, 80 minutes less bureaucratic, it could have made a very smart business deal, and a critically important hockey decision. ”

He adds, ” Ranger fans have every right to ask themselves existential questions about the coming regular season, which is now expanded to 84 games from 80. Basically, what is the point of it all? To defend the President’s Trophy? To get a glimpse at Peter Andersson, the new Swedish defenseman?

If there had been a Lindros, there would have been a reason to come to the Garden for that midseason game against Hartford or San Jose. There would have been this strapping, brassy teen-ager, No. 88, who idolized Mark Messier growing up and had all these outrageous things to say on almost any topic. Paul Bunyan with an attitude, and his hockey stick, Babe. ”

Bondy also writes about the 80 minute difference, “The number of minutes it takes for the Rangers to lose Eric Lindros to the Philadelphia Flyers, and to sabotage their next decade. ”

Note: The Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994 and the Flyers did not during their time with Lindros.