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Notable New Jersey Devils Deals in History: The Jason Arnott Trade (1998)

Jason Arnott, a player who the Devils traded for twice, is a name synonymous with the good ol’ days of success and grittiness

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New Jersey Devils v Dallas Stars Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

If the name Jason Arnott seems familiar to Devils’ fans both older and younger, it’s likely because both sets of fans grew up watching him play. Jason Arnott has the distinction of twice being traded for by the Devils. This time, we will be exploring the first trade.

Jason Arnott is a 6’5”, 220 lb center who was drafted 7th overall by the Edmonton Oilers, out of the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.

Early Background: Jason Arnott was always viewed as a potential superstar in the NHL, and in his final year in the OHL he exploded, recording 91 points through 56 games. He played his way onto the Oilers in his inaugural season out of the draft, where he made his name instantaneously, scoring 33 goals and 35 assists through 68 games. However, Arnott was unable to claim the Calder Memorial Trophy, as he lost to some unknown player called Martin Brodeur.

Arnott, after his amazing rookie season, struggled through injuries the following seasons, including a concussion in early 1995, and saw his production wane as a result. He only topped the 20 goal mark once in the rest of his Oilers stint, before being traded to the Devils, where he would eventually make his name.

The Jason Arnott Trade: For those who don’t know, the late 1990s/early 2000s Devils were VERY good. At the time of the Arnott Trade, the Devils were on top of the Atlantic, and still looking to make adjustments to prepare for a playoff push. With this, the Devils decided to make a splash, sending depth forward Valeri Zelepukin and a more top-line forward in Bill Guerin to acquire Jason Arnott and prospect Bryan Muir.

On the Oilers side, there was a bit more to the story. While Arnott was successful inside the rink, Arnott was a target of harassment of the local media, as his actions were monitored closely and criticized. As per The Globe and Mail:

“He got into a (paternity) problem but only one time,” Sather told the Edmonton Journal. “He was young. It became such a sensational scoop for everybody and it chased him out of town. He was sensitive, but what kid his age isn’t? I never wanted to get rid of him.”

Arnott was also immature at the time, even admitting at one time that he “‘just wasn’t into’” an NHL game. He was living lavishly, and struggling to mature enough to match his on-ice production.

The trade looked like a bust at first, with Arnott only recording 15 points through 35 regular season games, and 2 points through 5 playoff games, where the Devils were upset by the Senators in the 1st round.

The following season, more of the same occurred. The Devils won the Atlantic again, but were upset yet again by an 8 seed, as the Penguins eliminated them in the first round. For Arnott, however, the season was retribution. He recorded 27 goals and 27 assists through 74 games, and defined himself as a quality NHL player, establishing himself in the top 6 for the Devils.

Over the past two years, Arnott had matured significantly in interviews and play. He was a member of the infamous Elias-Arnott-Sykora line, when interviewed would always praise Elias and Sykora. He was excited to play - excited to win.

This all culminated in the 2000 season.

Stanley Cup Winners! Arnott Scores!:

The 2000 Devils, after two straight first round ousts, were looking to finally get over the hump. Most notably, they had a pair of stud NHL debuts in Brian Rafalski and Calder Memorial Winner Scott Gomez, to add free talent to their team. Notably, this was the year where they failed to win the Atlantic Conference, and struggled heavily to close the season, losing 14 of their last 24 games.

Jason Arnott, on the other hand, played as consistently as he had in the previous season. On the year, Arnott recorded 22 goals and 34 assists through 76 games. He was now splitting time with Gomez on the top line, but was still making an impact as he saw his ice time grow.

Then, the playoffs started. The Devils started off their historic playoff run against the 5 seeded Florida Panthers, where they showed that their end of the season skid was a fluke.

Devils v Panthers Vernon

The Devils absolutely dominated the Panthers, sweeping them through four games. Arnott, however, did not perform nearly as well. In the first game, Arnott actually saw the least time for any Devils forward, as he had only 9 minutes of game time, where he failed the record any points. Games two and three saw his ice time go up to 14 minutes, where he yet again failed to score any points. In game four, the series deciding sweep, Arnott recorded his first point - an assist on a Patrik Elias goal.

Eastern Conference Semi-Finals - Birth of the NHL OKC Thunder

The ECSF featured the 3 seeded Maple Leafs, who provided more of a challenge to the Devils.

The Maple Leafs took game 1, as Curtis Joseph stifled the Devils, only allowing 1 goal. In game 2, Joseph yet again stonewalled the Devils, only allowing 1 goal. However, Martin Brodeur shutout the Maple Leafs, allowing the Devils to even the series. In game 3, the Devils smoked the Maple Leafs 5-1, and Jason Arnott scored his first goal of the playoffs, whilst also recording an assist. I unfortunately can not find a clip of this goal, or I would attach it below.

In game four, the Maple Leafs were able to even the series, and Arnott was yet again shutout. Curtis Joseph was proving to be the difference in this series, as he made 34 saves on 36 shots. In game 5, back in Toronto, the Devils were able to solve Joseph again, scoring 4 goals on 32 shots, off a game winning goal from John Madden. Arnott, on the other hand, struggled this game, seeing himself on the ice for 2 of 3 Maple Leaf goals. In the series-deciding Game 6, the Devils and Brodeur were able to shutout the Maple Leafs, closing them out with a 3-0 sweep. Jason Arnott produced this game, scoring his 2nd goal and 3rd assist of the playoffs, and the Devils prepared to face-off against the best of the East.

Eastern Conference Finals - Flyers

The 2000 Flyers, led by Mark Recchi, John LeClair and Eric Lindros, were the premier crop of the East. They stole the Atlantic from the Devils, achieving 105 points on the year. Similarly to the Devils, the Flyers had handled their first round opponent early, before struggling against, but dismantling the Penguins through 6 games.

In game 1, the Devils struck first. despite getting outshot for the first time in the playoffs, the Devils were able to score 4 on Brian Boucher, with Arnott recording one assist. The Devils, however, were beaten the next 3 games in a row, despite Arnott scoring a goal in game 2 and an assist in game 3. In a flash, the Devils were on the brink of elimination.

Game five, back at Philadelphia, was a different story. Martin Brodeur closed the floodgates, and the Devils were able to solve Brian Boucher again, in route to a 4-1 victory. Jason Arnott recorded a goal and an assist in this game, as the Devils survived the first of three.

Game six was a defensive standstill, with the Devils squeaking out a 2-1 win. The defense was phenomenal, as they held the Flyers to a measly 13 shots on goal. Arnott was shutout of the scoresheet in this game.

In game seven, the Flyers turned the pressure on. They threw 27 shots on Brodeur, forcing Brodeur to work for this victory. They could not, however, solve the duo of Patrik Elias and Jason Arnott. The Devils survived the Flyers off of two similar goals — Scored by Elias, Primarily Assisted by Arnott. The Devils lived to see the final series, where they would face off against a familiar combatant.

The Stanley Cup Finals — The True Star Emerges

Spoiler alert: This is the series where Jason Arnott cemented himself in Devils history.

The Dallas Stars, featuring players such as Brett Hull and Mike Modano, were the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Similar to the Devils, they had a future Hall of Fame goaltender in Ed Balfour, and had seen little difficulty in their first two opponents, before struggling to beat the Avalanche through 7 games.

Game one was the only game of the series where either team scored over 3 goals, and the Devils absolutely blitzed Balfour and the Stars. The Devils drove Balfour out of the game early, scoring 6 goals on him, before Manny Fernandez jumped in and allowed another goal. Jason Arnott was outstanding in this game. He scored the first and last goals of the game, while also assisting on two other goals. The first goal can be seen here.

In game 2, Belfour more than recovered. He stopped 27 of 28 shots, and held the Devils to 1 goal in a 2-1 Stars victory. The Elias-Arnott-Sykora line struggled mightily in this game, being on the ice during both Stars goals, both scored by Brett Hull.

Game 3 featured a reversal, as the Devils were able to reverse the score with a 2-1 victory of their own. Jason Arnott was incredible, as he scored the opening Devils goal, before assisting on Petr Sykora’s game winning goal.

The Devils then proceeded to steal game 4 at Dallas as well. While Bobby Hull was doing all he could to carry the Stars to victory, the Devils were able to beat the Stars yet again, this time with a 3-1 victory. Just like that, the Devils were on the brink of the championship. The Arnott line was relatively quiet in this game.

Game six was a game for the ages. Both Brodeur and Belfour were phenomenal in this game, as they both held a shutout through regulation. Then the first overtime. Then the 2nd overtime. Finally, in the 3rd overtime, Mike Modano mercifully ended the game, scoring his 10th goal of the playoffs and sending the game back to Dallas for game 6.

And in this game, the story of Jason Arnott truly emerged.

A scoreless first period, marking 7 straight shutout periods for Ed Belfour, marked the start of another defensive battle. Scott Niedermayer proved that Belfour was mortal, scoring the Devils first goal in the 2nd period, before Mike Keane tied it later in the 2nd. Another scoreless battle emerged between the two teams, as the game yet again headed to overtime, and yet again saw the first overtime frame end with no score.

Then, the greatest moment in Devils history occurred.

And just like that, a Devils legend of born.

Immediate Aftermath

Immediately after this season, Jason Arnott spent another two seasons with the Devils, including another cup run which unfortunately didn’t end with the same results. He had another great two seasons, recording 43 goals through 117 games, before ironically getting traded to the Dallas Stars, for Joe Nieuwendyk and Jamie Langenbrunner. Arnott then spent another 10 years in the NHL, including one year again with the Devils in his later career.

The Deal in Retrospect

I’d say it’s safe to say the Devils won the trade, given that many Oilers fans view Arnott as the 3rd best Oiler who got away. The Devils were able to grab two cup runs out of Arnott, winning one of them. While Bill Guerin was awesome with the Oilers, they weren’t particularly successful as a team during his time.

Your Thoughts

What do you think of the trade? Do you have fond memories of Arnott? Let me know in the comments below, and take care!