Devilsentials Part X: Trade – Joe Nieuwendyk/Jamie Langenbrunner/Jeff Friesen


For the month of August, The Puck Daddy over at Yahoo Sports is breaking down “The Essentials” for every NHL franchise and recently touched on the New Jersey Devils.  The feature piece includes players, coaches, long-time arena traditions and stadium food.  Here at Pucks & Pitchforks, we’ll break down each category and give our take, as well as taking a look at who barely missed the cut.  Next up, the category of “Trade”.

Our “essential” trade is a pair of transactions.  One is the acquisition of Joe Nieuwendyk and Jamie Langenbrunner.

The Devils made this trade in March of 2002.  They were two years removed from their Stanley Cup victory and GM Lou Lamoriello felt a need to shake things up.  He sent Jason Arnott, Randy McKay and a first-round pick to the Dallas Stars for Nieuwendyk and Langenbrunner.  Those two guys were instrumental in the Devils winning the 2002-2003 Stanley Cup.

Arnott scored the Cup clinching goal in 2000 when they beat those same Stars.  McKay had been a cog in the Devils bottom two lines since the early 90s.  Lamoriello admitted it was a business decision that had to be made and that he couldn’t keep players based on past accomplishments.

“All those nostalgic things go through your mind, but you’re just trying to do something for your team,” Lamoriello said. “We needed to make a change.”

Nieuwendyk had won the Conn Smythe for the 1999 postseason, when the Stars won it all.  Even though he was several years older than Arnott, Lamoriello thought he had a special skill set.

“He gives us a top-notch faceoff guy who can play on the power play and the penalty kill,” Lamoriello said.

Langenbrunner’s point production had gone down every season since 1998 but Lamoriello got to know him during the Olympics from the same year and liked his “fiery desire night in and night out”.

Nieuwendyk went on to score goal #500 and point #1,000 in his illustrious career in a Devils uniform.  He suffered a hip injury in Game 6 against the Ottawa Senators and could not play in the Stanley Cup Finals.  He had nine points in 17 playoff games.  Langenbrunner?  All he did was go on to lead the Devils in scoring in the postseason, topping all other forwards in the playoffs with 11 goals and 18 points.  He scored numerous timely goals.  He dominated the Boston Bruins series.  He scored two timely goals in Game 7 against Ottawa and was key in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.  Not only did those trades pay off, they saw benefits immediately with the team’s third championship.

The other trade came a few months later in July.  The Devils shipped out Petr Sykora, Mike Commodore, J.F. Damphousse, Igor Pohanka, and a second-round pick to acquire Jeff Friesen, Oleg Tverdosky and Maxim Balmochnykh.

While Tverdosky had minimal impact and was a steady player, the price paid alone for Friesen was brilliant.  He scored the game-winning goal in Game 7 against Ottawa after a turnover earlier in the period allowed Radek Bonk to score and tie the game.  Easy to forget, he also had the game-winners in Game 2 and 4 of that series.  He netted the winning tally in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals and scored a total of five goals in the series.  He added the kill shots in Game 7.

These two trades were vital and directly led to the Devils winning the Stanley Cup in 2003.

Best Of The Rest:  Most will say, like the Puck Daddy article, that the Ilya Kovalchuk trade is the “essential” one in Devils history.  They sent away very little in Johnny Oduya, Niclas Bergfors, Patrice Cormier and a first-round pick.  To play devil’s advocate (pun intended), the circumvention penalties they paid made up for the steal of a package they sent the Atlanta Thrashers way.  Also, the trade of Kovalchuk may have led to the end of Zach Parise being in New Jersey…just food for thought.  The Neal Broten-for-Corey Millen swap during the 1995 season was clutch, as Broten went on to dominate the playoffs, specifically the Stanley Cup Finals.  The trade of Sylvain Turgeon for Claude Lemieux paid huge dividends in 1995 when he won the Conn Smythe trophy with 13 goals for the championship-winning Devils.  One that could get lost in the shuffle was trading Tom Kurvers for a first-round selection in 1991.  That pick turned into Scott Niedermayer.