One of the things I will never forget from my years in the business is the one night the Los Angeles Kings ended their 45-year Stanley Cup drought in June 2012 and how General Manager Dean Lombardi started making it available to the media.
Before any of us could ask a question, the engineer of this championship team wanted to get his hands on something.
“Let’s get something straight here. Every time a team wins, there are players who are unpopular,” Lombardi said as his Kings players celebrated on the ice around him during a Staples Center swing. Credit to Dave Taylor (GM ex-Kings); It started with three good players in (Dustin) Brown, (Anzi) Kopitar and (Jonathan) Quick. Let us never forget what he did. And let’s not forget (former coach) Terry Murray either. Reinforce that privilege and give us credibility. There are unsung heroes here who need to be acknowledged.
It was such a lofty thing that Lombardi achieved his personal pinnacle of glory in the sport, and he wanted to point out that that wasn’t all.
I was reminded of that moment 11 years ago when I watched Crown Prince Thompson score a hat-trick on Tuesday — another magical offensive night for the Buffalo Sabers’ superstar forward-turned-league starter.
On the third night of January, Buffalo’s Taige Thompson scored his third triple-double of the season just three minutes into overtime.
The same night, the team wore “Love for 3” T-shirts before the game in support of Dammar Hamlin pic.twitter.com/uIMW7EWmgN
– NHL Sports Association (TheAthleticNHL) January 4, 2023
This is another example of how it sometimes takes longer than expected to determine if an NHL move will pay off.
The Sabers traded for Thompson four and a half years ago. The huge deal went like this: Ryan O’Reilly to St. Louis in exchange for Patrick Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka and Taj Thompson, a 2019 first-round pick (who ended up being 31st, Rian Johnson) and a 2021 second-round pick (traded to Ottawa) .
Berglund was an important part of the deal, but he opted out of his NHL contract and returned home to Sweden, later telling the Swedish media that he had to do it to find happiness in his life. And who wants him for that?
But it was clearly a hard pill for the Sabers to swallow at the time.
Thompson was the young player that then-general manager Jason Bottrell focused on during those trade talks with the Blues.
“Like any multiplayer business, there are a lot of names that come and go. Throughout the process, Jason insisted that Taj be included as part of the deal,” said Randy Sexton, the Sabers’ assistant general manager at the time. the athlete Wednesday.
“Her conviction proves she’s in good standing,” Sexton added.
Thompson’s breakthrough didn’t come until last year, when he scored 38 goals in his fifth season in the NHL, nearly two years after Bottrell was fired and replaced by current general manager Kevin Adams.
So let’s take another look at the July 1, 2018 trade, almost five years later:
O’Reilly helped lead the Blues to their first Stanley Cup championship in June 2019, earning Conn Smith the playoff MVP award along the way. By all accounts, even today with Thompson’s remarkable rise, Blues manager Doug Armstrong has once again made the move for him. The cup is the cup is the cup. And O’Reilly, the Blues’ captain, has been very present since his arrival.
Meanwhile, Thompson was finally the talented forward who was drafted, moving to St. Louis’ 26th overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
So what we have here is what NHL general managers really seek, but rarely achieve: a trade that gave each franchise what it needed. The Blues don’t win the cup up front without this exchange. The sword on his back has a rising star.
So credit goes to Botterill, now Assistant General Manager in Seattle, for starting the business with her. He’s been taking a beating for it for years, especially after winning the O’Reilly Trophy.
Thanks to Head Coach Don Granato for helping unleash Thompson’s talents. Granato had coached Thompson in the USA National Team Development Program, and that prior relationship clearly paid off here.
Credit to current general manager Adams not only for seeing Granato’s ability to develop players, which is why he was promoted to head coach, but also for signing Thompson to a seven-year, $50 million deal a year on August 30, which is a full contract. yes. a year before Thompson’s current contract expired. I remember thinking it was a leap of faith.
not important. I was wrong.
Tage Thompson is giving up the seven-year, $50 million contract he signed after a 38-goal season as a deal.
But not all Buffalo players exceed expectations.@employee He provides his analysis with the latest Sabers Stock Market Report. https://t.co/yO5hKjrySL
– NHL Sports Association (TheAthleticNHL) December 27, 2022
Now on track to hit 60+ goals this season, by the time the show rolls around next year with an average annual value of $7.1 million, it’s going to look like a bargain. This expansion could save Sabers owners Terry and Kim Pegula around $30 million, if you think Thompson could be a $10 million player in this current market.
In short, sometimes you need a village. The previous GM sealed the deal, the current GM helped unlock the player and the current GM seemed to have taken the big step of extending it when he did.
And, of course, the player himself played a role.
He was a general assistant and managed the draft there,” said Coyote general manager Bill Armstrong, who drafted Thompson in St. Louis. the athleteMichael Russo recently. “And so, more often than not, you see him now, and it feels very natural to him. He could do the same thing before. He wasn’t strong enough in that body to be able to take in people. Now he is. And when you see him, he crosses no man’s land and takes out pucks.” Nobody can access it.
“He’s very strong about it and his confidence has grown. He knows when he gets pinched in certain areas, you’re not going to stop him. When we were at a scouting meeting, one of our executives asked us, ‘Well, where do you see all our prospects?'” said one of our scouts. And someone said, “Well, I see Parayko has a timer on one side and a timer on the other.” And no one will touch us. So it didn’t work. But we always knew he had it, because at UConn you can see it. You can see slight glimpses of it. And when he went to the program in the summer to experience the smallest size in the world, you can see him again. I just couldn’t hold it in for long. »
The NHL rip-off for Tage Thompson continues with a ‘special night’ coming home to Arizona
My story about her # patience Star >>> https://t.co/O4DZgDCmio
– Michael Russo (Russo Hockey) December 19, 2022
In the end, it’s a job that reminds me a lot of Dallas-Calgary. His breakthrough came in December 1995, when veteran Joe Nieuwendik moved to the Stars and youngster Jarome Iginla moved to the Flames. The Stars might not have won the cup in 1999 without Nieuwendyk. Iginla? He has had a career in the Hall of Fame in Calgary.
It was a rare win-win project. Here’s what the O’Reilly-Thompson deal looks like now.
(Top photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)