January 23, 2000, is a day that forever altered the courses of two franchises; although it didn’t seem like it at the time. At the time, it seemed as if it was just two teams swapping two very talented forwards.
And while both were good players and both helped out their teams, one team, in particular, benefitted from this trade more than the other in ways that we are still seeing today. Today is the 23rd anniversary of the Philadelphia Flyers trading center Rod Brind’amour, a second-round pick, and goalie prospect Jean-Marc Pelletier to the Carolina Hurricanes for center Keith Primeau and a fifth-round pick.
Brind’amour came to Philly in 1991. The St. Louis Blues had lost Scott Stevens to the New Jersey Devils as a way to make up some RFA capital back after successfully getting Shanahan from Jersey. But with that happening, it left a hole in the defense. The Blues contacted Philly and gave up Brind’amour, a 21-year-old forward with 43 goals in two seasons, for former 1980s star Ron Sutter and touted prospect, Murray Baron.
“Rod the Bod”, as he was known because of his intense workout efforts, immediately clicked in Philly. He scored 30+ goals the next three seasons, including a career-high 37 in 1992-93 and a career-high 97 points the following season. He did everything you could want in a player. He could hit, he could score, he could defend, he could score on the power play or help on the penalty kill.
He could fight, he would battle it out in the corners, and he wouldn’t turn the puck over. He also had this insane ability to win faceoffs. It may not sound like a big deal, but it’s one of those fundamental things that actually can change the course of a game.
He was the second-line center during the 90s while Eric Lindros manned the top line with his Legion of Doom linemates John LeClair and Michael Renberg. The Flyers were fortunate to have two of the biggest centers, both over 6’0″ and 200 lbs, manning their top two lines. They were a formidable pair down the middle that helped keep the Flyers near the top of the standings every year.
During the 1997 Stanley Cup playoff run, he had one of the best playoff games in Flyers’ history. As the Flyers swept the Pittsburgh Penguins, Brind’amour had two shorthanded goals on the same penalty kill! And he would lead all goal scorers with 13 in the 97 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Flyers would be swept by Detroit; thanks in some part to Shanahan (more on him in a second).
Then Brind’amour got hurt…for the first time in his career. He had become an NHL “iron man” having played in 484 straight games; still a Flyers record. He took a puck to the ankle during training camp. He tried to do the “typical man thing” and “Walk it off and rub some dirt on it”. It didn’t work. He had to miss time and when he came back, was a little slower. In the 12 games he played in during the 1999-00 season in Philly, he had scored just five goals and three assists.
Now, there are also rumors that a rift happened between Brind’amour and Lindros. It could be jealousy over how the two were perceived by fans/management/coaches/etc. Maybe there was a rivalry between the two. There are rumors that something else happened, but since I have no concrete evidence for it…I’m not going to share it here. BUT, if the stories ARE true, then between your second-line center and your superstar, someone has to go…and it’s not going to be the star.
Primeau was a highly sought-after junior league player. He scored 57 goals for the Ontario Hockey League’s Niagara Falls Thunder in 1989-90. He was drafted third overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1990 NHL draft behind Owen Nolan and Petr Nedved and just ahead of Mike Ricci and Jaromir Jagr.
He spent his first two as a professional hockey player bouncing back and forth between Detroit and the Adirondack Red Wings before becoming a full-time starter in the 1992-93 season. After four seasons as a starter, he demanded to be traded following the World Cup of Hockey, threatening to miss training camp until he is traded.
He was jealous that Igor Larionov had gotten more ice time than he had gotten and was tired of being blamed for the Red Wings’ postseason failures. After all, he was the third overall pick and was not scoring anywhere close to what Nolan or Jagr had been doing.
As the 1996-97 season started, and Primeau holding out, he was traded along with Paul Coffey to the Hartford Whalers for Brendan Shanahan and defender Bryan Glynn. Interestingly enough, Coffey hated being traded to a basement dweller like Hartford and demanded a trade of his own. Two months later, he was shipped with a third-round pick to Philly for a first-round pick, a seventh-round pick, and Kevin Haller.
Primeau now was on the Whalers. He scored 26 goals and had 25 assists in his first season. Then the team moved out of Hartford and headed south to North Carolina. The Hurricanes, as the team was rebranded, spent their first two seasons in Greensboro before moving to Raleigh. However, during this time, Primeau demanded that he be paid more than his $800,000-a-year salary. He shared the team lead in goals (26) and points (63) with Sami Kapanen (another future Flyer) in 1997-98 and lead the team with 30 goals and 62 points the following season.
He wanted to be paid. He initially rejected a five-year contract worth $20 million. He then rejected a two-year deal for $7 million. He was a 27-year-old RFA and refused to play in Carolina. Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford threatened to match any offer sheet that came his way, keeping Primeau in-house and refusing to trade him. Primeau refused to sign with Carolina and was starting to develop a reputation as a “brat“.
As happens with talent like this, teams start circling. Some teams will lowball, knowing that a team could be forced to sell low because they are stuck. However, teams could end up in a bidding war and if teams in the same division start looking in, such as the New York Rangers who offered Nedved, the price could be driven higher. Rutherford even rejected an offer from Phoenix that included Keith Tkachuk
It was at this point that Clarke made the trade. Primeau would become a Flyer, but it would cost the team Brind’amour. The Flyers would then sign Primeau to a $22.75 million deal over five years.