The Brian Leetch trade: Eight years later

On March 2, 2004, Ranger fans had their hearts ripped out. In the midst of another losing season, General Manager Glen Sather decided it was time to start over, and began with a fire sale that eventually led to the Rangers we see before us today. The prized piece of the fire sale was Brian Leetch, and Slats shipped him, along with the hearts of millions of Ranger fans, to Toronto for Jarkko Immonen, Maxim Kondratiev, a first round pick in 2004, and a second round pick in 2005.

The trade felt like a punch to the stomach for every single fan. For management, they got what they wanted: two legitimate prospects, and two top-60 draft picks. At the time of the trade, the Rangers got fair value for Leetch. It’s been eight years since that trade, so let’s look at what they got.

Maxim Kondratiev: The Russian defenseman’s time with the Rangers was very brief. After just 46 games with the organization, 29 with the Rangers, the Rangers shipped Kondratiev to the Anaheim Ducks in 2006 for Petr Sykora and a 2007 4th round pick. Sykora helped the Rangers reach the playoffs for the first time in eight years (seven seasons). Kondratiev now plays in the KHL.

The 4th round pick was used on Brett Bruneteau, who is no longer in hockey. Interesting note about this pick: the Rangers had acquired this pick (#108) as a conditional pick in 2005 in the Steve Rucchin trade. Essentially, the Rangers traded for this pick twice.

Jarkko Immonen: The Finnish center draws most of the attention from this deal. Not as a positive, but from a “what could have been.” Immonen dominated his first full season in the AHL (2005-2006), finishing with 70 points in 74 games. His play earned him a six game stint with the Rangers, where he scored two goals in his first two games.

Immonen’s second AHL season was again stellar, finishing with 46 points in 54 games. He played well in the NHL, finishing with six points in 14 games, bringing his totals to 3-5-8 in 22 games. However, it didn’t appear that he was a fit for the Rangers, or maybe he just didn’t want to play in the US anymore. After the 2006-2007 season, Immonen returned to Finland. Immonen is now in the KHL.

2004 1st Round Pick (Lauri Korpikoski): The Rangers wound up with the #24 pick in the draft as a result of the trade. They used this pick and a second round pick (#46 – Adam Pineault) to move up to #19, where they drafted Lauri Korpikoski. The Rangers also acquired an eighth round pick in the transaction (#247), which they used on Jonathan Paiement.

Korpikoski played fairly poor for the Rangers, and it was safe to say he did not meet expectations. He did not provide the offensive flair that made him a first round pick, and he struggled defensively as well. The Rangers gave up on him, and dealt him to Phoenix for Enver Lisin in the 2009 offseason. In Phoenix, Korpikoski has found himself a nice role as a third line player, and has started to finally chip in offensively.

Lisin played one year for the Rangers, and then left for the KHL.

2005 2nd Round Pick (Mike Sauer): The Rangers appeared to have hit the jackpot with Sauer. Sauer battled many shoulder injuries early in his career, but finally broke through and made the Rangers roster out of camp in 2010. Initially used as a rotating defenseman on the bottom pairing, injuries forced him into a full time role, where he exceeded all expectations.

Sauer now plays top-four minutes for the club –when he’s healthy– and is the real gem of this trade.

Trades for prospects and picks are generally gambles. Neither picks nor prospects are guarantees, and the general rule of thumb is to be happy if one pans out to be a solid player. The Rangers got just that in Sauer. It’s tough to call this trade a success, especially when it came from dealing Brian Leetch, but the deal was just that: A success.

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  • The Brian Leetch trade never happened; this is just another attempt by the media to smear Cablevision’s good name.

    What is next you are going to claim that a hockey team in Florida won the Stanley Cup?

    Troublemakers that’s what you people are just troublemakers.

    (wonder how many people will not realize this was humor until AFTER they started some kind of angry rant?)

  • At the time of the trade I was soooooo pissed off at Slats, that if I’d seen him on the streets, I would have punched him square in the nose. Now that some time has passed, and I realized that Brian was on his downward slide, it turned out to be a good move after all.

    Interesting how many people were impacted with that one trade, and what trash we would get. The prospects were not very impressive, the trade for Lauri was another disaster, as was the pick for him in the first place. Then we step in dog dong, and get lucky with Mike, who I wish a speedy recovery, and all is well. That is why they pay these GM’s big bucks!!!!!!

    • After all the good things Brian Leetch have done for the Rangers one of which included the winning of the Stanley Cup in ’94 He deserved the chance to be a life time Ranger and not being traded.Sather showed no loyalty to Leetch and the fans by trading the best homegrown player ever to play for the team and for that I will never forgive him, the same as I will never forgive Emil Francis for trading away Brad Park.
      Of all the stupid trade Sather had made, the trading of Leetch is on the top of my list.There are times when the GM. must show some class and IMO.Sather doesn’t know the meaning of the word.

      • I never said that I agreed with the trade, but that is the nature of the game, as much as it sucks.

        As for Park, that also was a killer, and to think that we got Esposito in return made it suck that much more!!!!!

        • At the time I didn’t like the trade for emotional reasons and looking back i don’t LOVE the trade for how it panned out… but, think of it this way, Leetch played the rest of the season with the leafs and then one more underproductive season with a bad Bruins team after the lockout.

          Read that again. Leetch played 1+ more seasons and then retired.

          Now, who’s to say what happens if the trade never goes down but, we basically got a bunch of junk AND a top 4 defenseman for 1+ season of Brian Leetch. You don’t make trades based on the past, you make them based on the future. Leetch will always be my 2nd favorite Ranger (Gartner was my first) but, I call this a success because we gave up a past-his-prime Leetch for Mike Sauer.

        • Walt, I did not critisize your post,I juast want it to express my feeling about the unfairness of the trade. As we both agree that leetch was a very loyal player for the Rangers and Slats did not even cosider his or the fans feelings.Leetchie was one of the most beloved Ranger of all time. At least it’s in my opipion. Sorry if I mislead you.

  • I’m torn here guys. On the one hand, there is something to be said for loyalty to a hometown franchise player, especially of the Brian Leetch caliber. On the other hand, this trade marked the beginning of the rebuild era for the Rangers. Part of rebuilding entails dealing veteran players on the downside trajectory of their careers for picks, prospects and youth. Emotions aside, what was Leetch truly going to bring to the Rangers at that point in his career? Leetch was a monster, and we all loved him. But Sather had to think long-term and I think we all can say that we are happy he has turned that page in his approach.

    • I fully agree with the rebuiding process ,but there are certain trades you just don’t make and trading leetch was one of those.He should have been allowed to retire as a Ranger after all he did for the orgenization he deserved that.

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