Trades like Matthew Tkachuk’s trade for Jonathan Huberdeau yesterday change NHL history. However, sometimes history is more influenced by those deals that never happened – although they almost happened and were actively discussed in the press. For example, Steven Stamkos could have been sent to the Rangers just a few months after his draft, the then co-owner had already agreed on a trade, but the general manager of Tampa managed to intervene and blocked the deal.

The most powerful trade in the NHL!  Who would benefit from a deal that no one could even imagine?
The most powerful trade in the NHL! Who would benefit from a deal that no one could even imagine?

Not all exchanges that almost happened become known to the public – but even leaks are enough to write a full-fledged book about alternative hockey history. The effect of such exchanges could affect not only the players and clubs involved in them, but the rest of the league on a tangent. One of these transitions could touch the Russian superstar. In the 2006/2007 season, New Jersey and Detroit discussed the trade of Pavel Datsyuk for another center, Scott Gomez.

Scott Gomez

Scott Gomez

Photo: Peter Power/Getty Images

Gomez and Datsyuk were selected in the same draft, but five rounds apart. You probably remember the history of the Ural player – due to the fact that one of his legs was shorter than the other, some did not even think that he would be able to play normally for strong clubs. However, in transit through Ak Bars, Datsyuk got to Detroit at the age of 23, making his way into the team stuffed with future members of the Hall of Fame.

Gomez’s path to the NHL was much shorter. A player with a surprising origin (born in Alaska from a Mexican-Colombian marriage) made it to the NHL a year after his draft. Even then, he impressed his teammates with incredible calmness and seriousness. Devils captain Scott Stevens told reporters, “I’ve been in the league for 18 years, but I’m more nervous than this guy. Sometimes it even seems that he simply does not have a heartbeat.

In his rookie season, Gomez won the Stanley Cup, plus won the Calder with 70 points in the regular season: a great result for a rookie in the “dead puck era”. “On the ice, Gomez crouched like a question mark. His shot is so weak that his teammates joked: Gomez will make a hat-trick against Hasek because Dominik gets tired of waiting for the puck to reach the goal. But his hands are gentle, like a lullaby, and his passes are both accurate and bold, ”Michael Farber, a Sports Illustrated journalist, described Gomez’s game.

The last sentence, perhaps, will remind you of the person for whom Gomez could be changed. The Devils forward, of course, was much less technical than Datsyuk, but the coaches respected both for their clear heads and excellent defensive skills. In the championship New Jersey, the game of forwards in their zone was especially appreciated.

Pavel Datsyuk

Pavel Datsyuk

Photo: Matthew Kutz/Getty Images

At the end of the 2006 calendar, the relationship of the two star strikers with their teams, as the press wrote, was not the best. The contracts of both Datsyuk and Gomez expired in the summer of 2007, and renewal negotiations stalled. The NHL had just introduced a salary cap, in the early years it was very low compared to the pre-lockout freemen, and the rich in the first half of the 2000s had big problems renewing the contracts of their stars.

After the lockout, Gomez signed two one-year contracts with the Devils, one of which was via arbitration. Datsyuk received a two-year contract for $3.9 million per season in 2005 – as the press wrote, Detroit’s initial offer for an extension was a 50% increase, but the striker refused to accept such a deal. Gomez was then receiving $1.1 million more.

The performance of the forwards then did not differ too much: in the 2005/2006 season, Gomez scored 84 points, and Datsyuk – 87. The Uralian had not yet won the Selke as the best defensive forward in the league, plus some Detroit fans were very unhappy with the pale game of Datsyuk in a losing playoff series with Edmonton in 2006.

However, the exchange did not happen. In April 2007, Datsyuk signed a long-term contract extension – seven years at $ 6.7 million. Gomez, as expected, entered the free agent market – but did not go to the West, as the press suggested, but chose the worst enemy of New Jersey “. The Rangers signed the forward to a contract for the same seven years, but for $7.35 million.

Scott Gomez to Rangers

Scott Gomez to Rangers

Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

“Detroit” with Datsyuk, as you know, won the Cup in 2008, plus reached the final a year later. But the Rangers traded Gomez two years later – to Montreal for a package, where the young Ryan McDonagh was the central part. After the transition, Scott’s productivity plummeted: he went on a year-long goalless streak, the last year of his mega contract was bought out. The forward was pushed around by several teams in the league, returned to the Devils, but ended his career in the league in 2016 – the same year as Datsyuk.

Pavel Datsyuk is a leader who has always fought for the country.  Legendary captains of the Russian national team at the Olympics
Pavel Datsyuk is a leader who has always fought for the country. Legendary captains of the Russian national team at the Olympics

Of course, if such an exchange happened, the Devils would have won heavily. Their line of centers with a young Travis Zajak and an experienced John Madden would be impassable for the opponent. We could see a bunch of Kovalchuk – Datsyuk, which was so effective in the national team and at the club level. It’s entirely possible that New Jersey would have won its cup during those years. But would Detroit become the champion – a big, big question.

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