Bruins

NHL Notebook: 33 years later, the Cam Neely trade is miraculously still paying off for the Bruins

(Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

When a GM finally opts to pull the trigger on a trade, there’s primarily two motivating factors at play — the short-term boost or the long-term retool. 

Boston has seen many such deals take shape through all of its pro sports — all with varying degrees of success when it comes to justifying whatever price was mortgaged to achieve said goal.

Of course, there are other motivating factors that can spur a deal — whether it be the need for a culture change, a message sent or a straightforward trade request.

But even when the motivations are rather evident, the actual action of signing off on trades is rarely taken lightly — given the long-term consequences that a team could be saddled with if it was to come out on the wrong side of such a move.

And while some trades can either flip the fortunes of a team over the span of a single summer (Kevin Garnett in 2007 certainly comes to mind), there are plenty of moves that can leave their fingerprints on a franchise for much longer than one championship window or rebuilding stretch.

For as much as the Bruins have been lambasted over the years for the meager return they secured in the Joe Thornton blockbuster (especially given what some other teams were offering), the trio of Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau did help put Boston on a path toward a Stanley Cup a little over five years later.

Okay, it was more indirect help than anything. But the Thornton deal did set off a chain of events that allowed some key cogs to join Boston's roster in the coming years.

Of course, getting Thornton's contract off the books allowed Boston to open its wallet to bring aboard both Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard in July 2006, but both Stuart and Primeau were later flipped for additional assets that paid major dividends for the B's. In February 2007, Stuart and Primeau were traded to the Flames for Andrew Ference and Chuck Kobasew — with Kobasew later dealt to the Wild in October 2009 in exchange for Craig Weller and a second-round pick. Just a few months later, Weller was an asset in a package that allowed Boston to acquire Dennis Seidenberg from the Panthers.

Indeed, even the most underwhelming returns can often lead to some unexpected surprises years down the road. But even megadeals involving the likes of Thornton or Tyler Seguin pale in comparison to the haul Boston landed when it dealt Barry Pederson to Vancouver in exchange for Cam Neely and a first-round pick.

Of course, the rest was history when it came to the impact Neely had over 10 standout seasons in Boston. But that first-round pick plucked from the Canucks was far from just a throw-in for a franchise-altering deal. On the contrary, that draft capital set in motion a chain of events that has continued to benefit the Bruins over 33 years since the original Neely deal was struck.

For as much as Boston often gets knocked for getting the short end of the stick on major deals, the B's knocked the Neely trade out of the park back in the summer of 1986.

Here are the parameters of that deal:

1986 Trade
Boston gets: Cam Neely, Canucks' 1987 first-round pick
Vancouver gets: Barry Pederson 

At the time, this move was viewed as a bit of a head-scratcher, if not a massive gamble. After all, Pederson was viewed as one of the premier young centers in the NHL at the time of the trade — with the 25-year-old pivot already tallying a pair of 100-point campaigns in five full seasons with the Bruins. No Bruin in franchise history has tallied 150 goals in as short a span as Pederson (316 games) — not even David Pastrnak (341 games).

But Boston, concerned with Pederson's long-term potential due to injuries, opted to roll the dice and look to cash in on future assets by acquiring Neely and Vancouver's first-round pick in 1987.

At the time, Neely's imposing and physical style of play certainly fit the brand that Boston was looking for, but his offensive contributions were a far cry from the totals that Pederson produced — with the winger averaging 17 games per season over his three years in Vancouver.

It didn't take long for Neely to fit into his new surroundings, ingratiating himself to the Garden crowds by scoring 36 goals and racking up 143 penalty minutes in his first campaign with Boston. He would go on to be the most feared power forward of his generation — surpassing the 50-goal mark on three occasions and totaling 590 points and 921 penalty minutes over his 10 seasons in Boston. Even with his Hall of Fame resume, Neely could have further padded his stats and added to his legend if it wasn't for the injuries that ended his career at just 30 years old.

Of course, just a straight swap between Neely and Pederson — who ultimately only played six more seasons due to injuries — would have been a major win for the Bruins outright. But this 1986 deal proved to be the gift that kept on giving for the B's for the next three-plus decades.

1987 — Bruins draft Glen Wesley with Canucks' first-round pick

A struggling Canucks team in 1986-87 quickly added to Boston's fortunes as far as draft capital goes, with the Canucks' first-round selection handing the B's the third overall pick in the 1987 draft. With the pick, Boston selected defenseman Glen Wesley — who recorded 307 points over seven seasons with the Bruins while becoming a key cog on a pair of Bruins clubs that advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in 1988 and 1990.

1994 — Trade
Boston Gets: Whalers' 1995, 1996 & 1997 first-round picks
Hartford Gets: Glen Wesley