The jury is still out on the acquisition in January of outfielder Vernon Wells and the $86 million he's owed over four years in exchange for Juan Rivera and catcher Mike Napoli.
BEST: The Kings stunned the hockey world on Aug. 9, 1988, by acquiring Gretzky from the defending Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers, with bodyguard Marty McSorley and forward Mike Krushelnyski, for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, two first-round picks and about $15 million. His star power attracted celebrities who had never been closer to ice than the cubes in their drinks and he triggered a youth hockey boom that continues to produce talent and send local kids to college, junior leagues and the NHL.
He became the NHL's all-time leading scorer while with the Kings, won three scoring titles and was the league's MVP in 1989. He holds their playoff record for assists (65) and points (94), though the closest he got them to the Cup was a five-game loss in the 1993 finals, their lone finals appearance.
WORST: So, so many. But the worst has to be GM Sam McMaster trading Gretzky — who wanted out after the team declined and new owners AEG didn't want to invest in better talent — to St. Louis for Craig Johnson, Patrice Tardif, Roman Vopat and two draft picks on Feb. 27, 1996. McMaster should have held out for more, because Blues GM Mike Keenan had openly spoken of how much he wanted Gretzky and McMaster could have threatened him with tampering charges. None of the players the Kings acquired had any impact.
In their early days the Kings often traded first-round draft picks for veterans, a practice favored by original owner Jack Kent Cooke. Other teams used the Kings' top picks to select Steve Shutt, a Hall of Fame left wing; Ray Bourque, a Hall of Fame defenseman; Phil Housley, a longtime defensive standout, and Tom Barrasso, a standout goaltender.
BEST: The Ducks acquired Jean-Sebastien Giguere from Calgary on June 10, 2000, for a second-round pick in the 2000 draft, a move made possible because the Flames couldn't protect him in the expansion draft that stocked the new Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild. Giguere led the Ducks to the Stanley Cup finals in 2003 with a 1.62 goals-against average and .945 save percentage and was voted the MVP of the playoffs despite the Ducks' seven-game loss to New Jersey. In 2007, with a more potent team around him, he posted a 1.97 goals-against average and .922 save percentage as the Ducks won the Cup with a five-game finals victory over Ottawa.
A couple of other moves also were tied to their championship:
• GM Brian Burke acquired defenseman Chris Pronger from Edmonton for right wing Joffrey Lupul, defenseman Ladislav Smid and two draft picks on July 3, 2006. Pronger made them a dominant force and was crucial to their Cup run.
• On March 11, 2003, GM Bryan Murray acquired Rob Niedermayer from Calgary for goalie J.F. Damphousse and defenseman Mike Commodore. Niedermayer was a standout in both Cup runs and his presence led his Norris trophy-winning brother, Scott, to sign with the Ducks as a free agent in August 2005 and help transform them into a championship team.
Also worth mentioning is the Feb. 7, 1996 acquisition of right wing Teemu Selanne, the rights to Marc Chouinard and a draft pick from Winnipeg for center Chad Kilger, defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky and a draft pick. Without a doubt a one-sided trade, and so began Selanne's still-strong attachment to Anaheim.
WORST: Scott Niedermayer took a sabbatical after the Cup victory and his decision to return put the Ducks in a salary-cap bind. To clear space Burke traded center Andy McDonald — who had a $3.33-million salary — to St. Louis on Dec. 14, 2007, for veteran center Doug Weight, left wing Michal Birner, and a late draft pick. Weight didn't like the trade and played like it, collecting six goals and 14 points in 38 games. He left for the New York Islanders as a free agent in July 2008. Birner never played in the NHL. McDonald has been productive with the Blues and scored 20 or more goals each of the last two seasons.