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Notable New Jersey Devils Deals in History: The Alexander Mogilny Trade

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Alexander Mogilny’s first stint with the New Jersey Devils included back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals appearances and one championship. His time with the Devils was short in the grand scheme of his career but he’ll always be remembered as one of the most offensively gifted players to ever play for the franchise.

Alexander Mogilny #89
Alexander Mogilny would be a key part of the New Jersey Devils attack after being acquired in the spring of 2000. He would finish his first stint with the Devils with 46 goals and 43 assists in 87 regular season games as well as 9 goals and 14 assists in 48 playoff games. Of course, most notably, he has a Stanley Cup ring from helping the Devils win the championship in 2000.

Alexander Mogilny is one of the most talented players to ever play for the New Jersey Devils. In team history, he is remembered for being a key goal scorer and playmaker on the teams that went to the 2000 Stanley Cup Finals and 2001 Stanley Cup Finals. His performances helped them capture the 2nd Stanley Cup in team history in 2000 and brought them to within a game of winning it all in 2001. As we continue to look back on key trades in Devils history this week, today we’ll take a look at the trade that brought Mogilny to the Devils.

The Alexander Mogilny Trade

The Deal: On March 14, 2000 the New Jersey Devils traded Brendan Morrison and Denis Pederson to the Vancouver Canucks for Alexander Mogilny.

The Background: The 1999-00 season was the fifth season since the Devils captured their first Stanley Cup in 1995. The team was poised for success in the following seasons but fell short of expectations. In 1995-96 the Devils infamously missed the playoffs, losing their final game of the season when they had a chance to qualify. They became the first defending champions to miss the playoffs since the 1969-70 Montreal Canadiens. The Devils would rebound slightly in the following three seasons without much playoff success. The 1996-97 team bowed out in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the New York Rangers. The 1997-98 team was eliminated in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals by the Ottawa Senators. The 1998-99 team fell in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The 1999-00 season would prove to be an eventful affair for the Devils but ultimately end in great reward. During the 1999 offseason, the Devils would lose valuable veteran forward Dave Andreychuk in free agency to the Boston Bruins. The Devils would immediately receive some help up front when 1998 1st round pick, Scott Gomez, would earn a spot on the team in training camp en route to a 19 goal and 51 assists season. The center earned the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie and would go on to play with Mogilny.

Lou Lamoriello would start to make key moves to bolster that 1999-00 team in November when he re-acquired Devils cult hero and former Conn Smythe winner Claude Lemieux for some help up front. John broke down that trade (and all the Claude trades) in yesterday’s post. To re-acquire Lemieux, the Devils gave up Brian Rolston to the Colorado Avalanche. At the time of that trade the Devils were off to a 6-3-1-1 (W-L-T-OTL) start. Lamoriello would then further improve the team in March by acquiring a pair of Russian players. Defenseman Vladimir Malakhov was acquired on March 1 from Montreal for a package centered around Sheldon Souray. The big move would come almost two weeks later when the Devils traded young forwards Brendan Morrison and Denis Pederson to Vancouver for Alexander Mogilny.

Alex Yannis, writing for The New York Times, had this article about the deal on March 15, 2000. He opens the article noting that the Devils had been stuck in mediocrity for the past month. Lou Lamoriello is quoted in the article speaking about acquiring Mogilny:

‘’He’s a proven goal scorer and he gives us a dimension of explosiveness,’’ the Devils’ president and general manager, Lou Lamoriello, said of the 31-year-old Mogilny, whose best season was 1992-93, when he scored 76 goals in 77 games with the Buffalo Sabres.

‘’He’s the type of player who can complement others,’’ Lamoriello said. ‘’He’s the type of player who we can use.’’

Yannis also notes that Mogilny still had one year left on his contract worth $5.2 million, so this was not only an acquisition to contend in the upcoming 2000 playoffs but also the 2001 playoffs. Lamoriello, ever resourceful, managed to get Vancouver to cover part of Mogilny’s salary.

Mark Everson, writing for the New York Post, had this article about the deal also on March 15, 2000. Mogilny is quoted with his thoughts on the trade:

“I think I can score 50 or 40 goals again,” Mogilny said yesterday in Vancouver. “I had lost my confidence here and that was a big part of it. The mind is a powerful thing. Now I’m going to a team where I don’t feel I have to be the guy to score. Other guys will be able to do it. I needed a change at this stage of my career. This is good for me,” Mogilny said.

Everson also noted that while the Devils gave up two young, promising forwards, it was a move bound to happen due to some discontent. Brendan Morrison was a former 2nd round pick in 1993 and Hobey Baker Award winner. Since turning pro in 1997-98 he played a depth role but was unhappy with his playing time and contract. He got his wish when the Devils traded him. Denis Pederson was the Devils 1st round pick from the 1993 draft, but also like Morrison, was a young center stuck in a depth role. This move gave him an opportunity to make his mark at the NHL level. Here are the quotes from Everson’s article where Morrison talks about his contract and trade request status and Pederson talks about his friction with then-coach Robbie Ftorek and his shift to the wing:

“It wore on me,” Morrison said. “I never knew what to expect. I got to the point where I tried to block everything out. We had our difficulties at the beginning of the year. We didn’t see eye-to-eye on a couple issues. But you have to respect the job he’s done.”

“I didn’t think it was fair, what happened,” Pederson said. “It’s a great team with a lot of skill, but two or three guys were always the fall guys, the guys sitting out or getting minutes taken away from them

“I’m excited now, and it looks like there will be an opportunity in Vancouver.”

The Impact of the Deal: At the time of the trade, the Devils were 40-17-8-5 but weren’t playing consistently. The team had a pair of 5 game win streaks in January, losing just a single overtime game in-between them on January 14 to the Washington Capitals. Things would get messy from there as the team would go 9-7-3-2 from January 28 to March 13. The second game of that stretch included the legendary Robbie Ftorek bench throwing incident as the Devils coach lost his cool. Mogilny would only play 4 games for Ftorek before Lamoriello would fire the coach on March 23 due to the teams struggles. Larry Robinson would take over with 8 games left in the regular season and guide them to a 4-4-0-0 record to close out the season.

Mogilny didn’t make the biggest impact down the stretch as he put up 3 goals and 3 assists in 12 regular season games while averaging just over 17 minutes per game. He didn’t exactly light it up in the playoffs, finishing tied in 10th place on the team in scoring with Scott Niedermayer. Mogilny had 4 goals and 3 assists 23 games, averaging just over 16 minutes per game. Still, he was able to provide some secondary scoring for the team while the A Line of Patrik Elias, Jason Arnott, and Petr Sykora led the way. The 4th seeded Devils swept the 5th seeded Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals with Mogilny scoring a crucial PP goal (assisted by Brian Rafalski and Scott Stevens) to tie Game 3 up late in the 2nd period. They would go on to win that game 2-1.

The Devils would then go on to dispatch the 3rd seeded Toronto Maple Leafs in 6 games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. He had another PP goal (assisted by Claude Lemieux and Scott Gomez) in a Game 3 route that put the Devils up 2-1 in the series.

The Eastern Conference Finals would see the Devils go up against the top seeded Philadelphia Flyers. Mogilny made an impact on the PP in a Game 1 victory when he helped set up a Claude Lemieux goal. That goal gave the Devils a 4-1 victory over the Flyers to start the series. The Devils would then implode, dropping 3 straight games, putting themselves right on the brink of elimination. Mogilny didn’t make an impact over those 3 games with just 5 shots on goal. As it is well documented now, the Devils would reel off 3 straight victories to complete an incredible comeback. Mogilny would score a crucial goal, assisted by Sergei Brylin and John Madden, to put the Devils up 2-0 late in the 3rd period of Game 6. With 29 seconds left in the game Eric Lindros would get the Flyers on the board, so Mogilny’s goal proved to be the game winner. Mogilny would also contribute in Game 7, also late in the 3rd period, when he assisted on a Patrik Elias goal with just minutes left which put the Devils up 2-1. It proved enough to be enough for them to complete the comeback and move on to the Stanley Cup Finals.

In the Finals they met the 2nd seeded team from the Western Conference, the Dallas Stars. The Devils would win the series, dramatically in double overtime of Game 6. Mogilny’s only goal of the series would come in a Game 2 loss that would even up the series. His only other point was an assist in Game 4, a game that the Devils won to go up 3-1 in the series. The goal he assisted on was scored by Sergei Brylin in the opening minutes of the 3rd period which tied the game at 1-1. The Devils would go on to score 2 more goals to win that game. While he didn’t get on the scoresheet in the Game 7, he did play the 2nd most of any forward (26:51) due to Petr Sykora’s injury and the double overtime. While he didn’t produce as much as some expected in 2000, he was still a key piece of the Devils Stanley Cup winning team.

The Devils still had Mogilny under contract for another season and he would prove to be a vital part of the 2000-01 team. He established a good partnership with Scott Gomez and finished the regular season with 43 goals and 40 assists in 75 games while averaging 16:53. That led the team in goals and put him 2nd on the team, behind Patrik Elias, in scoring. He was also more effective in his 2nd playoff run with the team, finishing with 5 goals and 11 assists in 25 games while averaging 16:42. Mogilny put up 2 goals and 3 assists as the Devils dispatched the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. He then had 2 goals and 5 assists as the Devils edged out the Toronto Maple Leafs in 7 games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. All of those points came in games the Devils won. New Jersey would easily move past the Pittsburgh Penguins in 5 games in the Eastern Conference Finals, however Mogilny’s game would start to go cold. He had just one assist over those 5 games. In the heart breaking Stanley Cup Finals loss to the Colorado Avalanche, Mogilny would only score once and add 2 assists. That goal and an assist came in Game 5 that the Devils won to go up 3-2 in the series. He would unfortunately be unable to produce anything in Games 6 or 7 as the Devils lost the Cup.

He would go on to sign a 4 year deal worth $22 million in free agency with Toronto that offseason, thus ending his first stint with the Devils. He would spend 3 productive seasons with Toronto, putting up 65 goals and 101 assists in 176 regular season games, before the 2004-05 lockout. He would return to New Jersey in 2005-06, signing a 2 year deal worth $7 million after the lockout. However, a now noticeably slower Mogilny, would burn out. He had 5 goals and 8 assists over his first 12 games but then had just 7 goals and 5 assists in his final 22 games. He would have no points over his final 5 games and became a cap casualty, waived and sent to Albany (AHL). He would finish out his playing career with 4 goals and 10 assists in 19 AHL games.

The Deal in Retrospect or Who Won This One: A huge win for the New Jersey Devils! They won the Cup in 2000 with Mogilny!

When the Devils acquired Mogilny in March of 2000, they hoped he would help them contend for a Stanley Cup in both 2000 and 2001. They won the Cup in 2000 and came within a game of repeating in 2001. Mogilny wasn’t prolific in 2000 but had some key moments. He was huge part of the offense in 2001.

However, while the Canucks didn’t win this trade, I do think it’s important to note that one of the players they got did well for them. Brendan Morrison would spend his age 24 through 32 seasons with Vancouver. He wasn’t a star player but played in 543 regular season games with 136 goals and 257 assists while averaging 19:02 per game. They made the playoffs 5 times with Morrison. He played in 43 playoff games with 8 goals and 17 assists while averaging 21:21 per game. Sure, they never made it past the Semifinals but Morrison was certainly a part of the solution for the bulk of his time in Vancouver. In the end, Morrison played in 934 regular season games with 200 goals and 401 assists, so clearly the Canucks did well to identify his NHL talent.

Denis Pederson didn’t work out as well for the Canucks, spending the final part of the 1999-00 season with them before moving on during the 2001-02 season. He had just 8 goals and 15 assists in 102 regular season games with the Canucks. He would play in a total of 435 regular season games across time with the Devils, Canucks, Coyotes, and Predators before ending his career with a few seasons in Germany.

Final Thoughts & Your Take

Alexander Mogilny had a legendary hockey career and is one of my favorite players of all time. He won the Stanley Cup with the Devils in 2000. He was a 6 time NHL All-Star. He won the Maurice Richard Trophy (Most Goals) in 1992-93 and Lady Byng Trophy (NHL Gentleman Conduct) in 2002-03. Internationally he won an Olympic Gold Medal (1988), U20 WJC Gold Medal (1989), a World Championship Golad Medal (1989), and a U20 WJC Silver Medal (1988). While Brendan Morrison and Denis Pederson went own to have NHL careers, I think it’s safe to say that Mogilny made an impact as a New Jersey Devil when the franchise was in it’s best days back in the early 2000’s. Lou Lamoriello managed to turn 2 young but unsatisfied forwards into a high impact, offensive dynamo in Mogilny. Mogilny ultimately helped the team to 2 Cup Final appearances and one championship. Mogilny will be remembered fondly by the Devils fanbase, even with his unsuccessful post lockout stint in 2005-06. His skill, production, and place on a championship team will forever be etched in Devils history. I was in middle school when the Devils acquired him and remember just being in awe of his skill on the ice. His natural goal scoring ability made every shift interesting as I always felt like he was on the cusp of creating a goal out of a moment of brilliance.

Now I want to know your thoughts on the Alexander Mogilny trade. Are you old enough to remember it, if so, what was your reaction at the time? How do you feel about Mogilny’s first stint with the team? If you’re a younger fan, what do you think of Mogilny’s place in Devils history? How would you rate this trade compared to other big trades in Devils history? Stay tuned as we’ll continue to look back on key trades in Devils history here on AAtJ this week.

Also a big thanks to NHL Trade Tracker and Hockey-Reference for research used in this post. Thanks for reading!