A History of Canucks/Panters Trades: Pavel Rockets To Florida

A few days ago, we explored the first of many trades between the Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers, which was the exchange of Jesse Belanger to the Canucks for a third-round draft choice in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. While Belanger only played for a short time in Vancouver and wasn’t offered a contract the following year, the third-round pick the Canucks gave up started a domino effect throughout the Panthers organization from the way they drafted to the players they traded for, the results of which can still be seen on the current Panthers roster and farm system. Today, we’ll be examining one of the most infamous deals in Canucks history, the one that sent an unhappy Russian Rocket to Florida for, amongst others, fan favorite swashbuckling defenseman, Ed Jovanovski.

Year:: 1999
Canucks receive: Ed Jovanovski, Dave Gagner, Mike Brown, Kevin Weeks and a first-round pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.
Panthers recieve: Pavel Bure, Bret Hedican, Brad Ference and a third-round pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.

Background: In case you didn’t follow the Canucks during their last Stanley Cup run…which is probably a lot of you young whippersnappers I see on Twitter these days…Pavel Bure is still to this day the most exciting, electrifying, get-up-out-of-your-seat-when-he-touches-the-puck sort of player the Canucks have ever had. Don’t get me wrong…Trevor Linden is still my favorite all-time Canucks player but he never brought the same sort of offensive danger that Bure did when he stepped on the ice. If you watch Alex Ovechkin today and get that sense of anticipation you feel when he gets that black rubber on his stick that he’s going to do something amazing, that’s the sort of sensation Canucks fans expected during Pavel Bure’s 7 seasons with the Canucks.

Bure still sits 7th on the all-time Canucks scoring list, 4th in goals with 9 hat-tricks and 32 game winners. He’s also got a Calder as Rookie of the Year and remains the only Canuck to score 60 goals in a season, which he did back to back from 1992-’94. Most Canucks fans of that era can tell you exactly where they were when Bure scored some of his most important goals, including that incredibly breakaway goal on Flames goaltender Mike Vernon to advance the Canucks to the Conference Final, completing one of the greatest comebacks in team history being down 3-1 in the series and winning three times…all in overtime…to take the series in the seventh game.

But unlike fellow ’94 alumni like Linden, Kirk McLean, Greg Adams and Gino Odjick, Bure isn’t a universally loved player in Vancouver. Despite his absolutely beast-mode 31 points in 24 playoff games that year (24GP-16G-15A-31P), Bure is thought of by many as a selfish player that turned his back on the team that drafted him. Although he had 51 goals in his last season with the Canucks, the canyon between the Russian Rocket and the Canucks organization had grown. By the 1997-’98 season, Bure had told management that he would not be playing for the Canucks again even though he had a year and $8m left on his contract, which led then-GM Brian Burke to trade him halfway through the season to the Florida Panthers.

What Happened: All you need to know this trade is that it happened during the Mark Messier era in Vancouver Canucks history, which were truly the dark ages. After the ’94 Cup run and the ’95 lockout, a number of changes occured in the Canucks organization, including the hiring of Mike Keenan and the acquisition of former New York Rangers center Mark Messier. I won’t go into detail as even talking about this particular moment in time makes the veins in my head bulge and I don’t know what I did with my Messier voodoo doll but suffice to say, Bure wasn’t happy with the team and wanted out.

The trade didn’t really have any playoff implications that year as both the Canucks and Panthers missed the playoffs, with the Canucks occupying the Western Conference basement and the Panthers were only one point ahead of them.

Long-term Consequences:

Canucks: For the Canucks, this trade meant that they immediately lost one of the foremost offensive threats and easily their most explosive player. Despite injuries that shortened several previous seasons, Bure was still productive and when healthy, he remained a top-level player for years to come.

Ed Jovanovski, Vancouver Canucks

The centerpiece in the package the Canucks would get in return was Ed Jovanovski, a former 1st overall defensemen who had spent 4 years with the Panthers already. At 23, he had barely scratched his prime. With the Canucks, “Jovocop” would spend 7 years on a high-flying Canucks team that also featured the West Coast Express of Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison. He would play 434 games in that span with his last three years cut short by various injuries. Although the Canucks wouldn’t make it out of the second round of the playoffs during his time here, Jovo put up some very good numbers for Vancouver (434GP-57G-177A-234P) and for me in particular, he is responsible for some of my best memories of that era. I can still see him jumping up and down in the penalty box after Matt Cooke scored against the Flames to send it to overtime (Martin Gelinas would win it for Calgary a minute later) and that time he knocked Adam Deadmarsh the hell out. He had great years in Vancouver but the team was looking for a change in 2006 and Jovo would sign with the Phoenix Coyotes as a free agent.

Dave Gagner, on the other hand, was not particularly important to the Canucks. He played 33 games (33GP-2G-12A-14P) before retiring later that year. At 35, I don’t know why he was even part of the trade but the last time I heard, Burke insisted that he be included. My dad is still angry about this particular part of the trade to this day. Gagner is currently the Director of Player Development for the Canucks.

Mike Brown spent most of his time in the minors after being selected 20th overall by the Panthers in 1997. While not overly big, he still played the enforcer role decently at the minor league level, once topping a whopping 300 PIMs in 1997-’98, a season where he also scored 56 points in 72 games. At the NHL level, he never quite got there despite being a Brian Burke favorite. He played a total of 16 games for the Canucks, with no points and 78 PIMs. He would sign with the Mighty Ducks after the Canucks left him unrestricted in 2002-’03, the season where he would score his only NHL goal.

Kevin Weekes, Vancouver Canucks

Kevin Weekes…oh man, here we go. I’m tempted to talk about his current stint on Hockey Night in Canada but before he tortured our ears with partner Mark Lee (okay, I’m done…), he was the Canucks goalie-from-the-future! …I mean, goalie-OF-the-future. Drafted 41st overall by the Panthers in 1993, Weekes was a big part of the Bure deal as the Canucks were looking for a goalie to stop the revolving door and Weekes showed tremendous promise. Unfortunately, he never panned out with the Canucks, who were disappointed with his play, posting only 6 wins during his tenure of 31 games (31GP-6W-15L-5T/OTL). He would be packaged with Bill Muckalt and Dave Scatchard and sent to the New York Islanders for Felix Potvin, a 2nd and 3rd round pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. Potvin would be an even more forgettable goalie and would be dealt to the Kings for future considerations as Dan Cloutier and Bob Essensa took over goaltending duties for the Canucks. Since I can’t find anything about what happened to those “future considerations”, we’ll just assume the Canucks received a shiny bag of pucks, which I’d like to think are still somewhere in Rogers Arena today so we can get some value out of all this.

The 2nd round pick from the Weekes deal was moved to New Jersey in a 3-way trade where the Canucks got Vadim Sharifijanov (…who?) and a 3rd rounder, which ended up being Tim Branham. Branham would never play an NHL game and Sharifijanov, despite scoring a goal in his first shift as a Canuck, played only 17 games (17GP-2G-1A-3P) before he would be released. The 3rd round pick from the Weekes deal was used to draft Thatcher Bell, who also never played a NHL game. Not sure if the Canucks released him or traded him but he has popped up in the Rangers and Ducks system.

With guys like Brad Boyes, Justin Williams and Niklas Kronwall still on the board, the Canucks used Florida’s 2000 first-round draft pick (23rd overall) to draft Nathan Smith. Injuries derailed much of Smith’s time in the Canucks organization where he played from 2002 to 2007. His claim to fame is that he played the same number of games for the Canucks in the regular season and in the playoffs. He would be called up for 4 games spread between 2003 to 2007 and also played 4 postseason games in 2007. He would never score a point at the NHL level, a great example of how poor the Canucks scouting department was at the time. He’s so forgettable that a Google image search brings up a picture of a Smith jersey some ridiculous Canucks fan bought and a screencap of his back. He’s playing in the German Elite League these days.

Today’s results: The Canucks did not get much in return for Bure apart from Jovanovski, who was allowed to walk just like several other players involved in the trade. While the 2000 draft wasn’t deep, several NHL-caliber players were available along with Nathan Smith such as Niklas Kronwall, Brad Boyes, Ilya Bryzgalov and Jarret Stoll but instead, the Canucks picked a bust in Smith and busts with all their other acquired picks as well. As a result, all we are left with today as a result of the Bure trade is a couple pictures of Ed Jovanovski hanging in the halls of Rogers Arena and a bunch of 11-year old pucks.

Panthers: In Bure, the Panthers acquired a game-breaker, one of the only guys in the league at the time that could take over a game all by himself. Unfortunately, Bure’s knees would never be quite what they were as a result of his style of physical play. He would appear in only 11 games the season after the trade (11GP-13G-3A-16P) before he had to have surgery on his ACL. Bure would play 3 more seasons with the Panthers, which included a 58-goal season, a 59-goal season and a 94-point season – the latter two still team records. Bure is 9th on the Panthers scoring leaders (223GP-152G-99A-251P).

Igor Ulanov, Florida Panthers

On March 18th, 2002, Florida would trade Bure along with their 2nd-round pick in the 2002 draft for Igor Ulanov, Filip Novak and the Rangers’ 1st and 2nd-round picks in the same year. Ulanov played a couple of years with the Panthers with little success (70GP-1G-5A-6P). He’d sign as a free agent with the Edmonton Oilers the next season. Novak would spend most of his time with the Panthers injured on their AHL affiliate San Antonio Rampage’s roster before being dealt to the Ottawa Senators for a conditional draft pick, which doesn’t appear to have been invoked probably since he didn’t re-sign.

The 1st round pick the Panthers would receive in the Bure deal resulted in Petr Tatíček, who they drafted 9th overall. He would play 3 games for the Panthers (3GP-0G-0A-0P) before being sent to Pittsburgh for Ric Jackman. Jackman would be sent to the Ducks a year later (where he won a Stanley Cup) for a conditional pick, which became 181st-overall pick Corey Syvret, who is playing in the ECHL today. The 2nd rounder would turn to Rob Globke, who would play a total of 46 games with the Panthers (46GP-1G-1A-2P) before leaving for Europe.

In that original trade with the Canucks, the Panthers also received, in exchange for Bure, defensemen Bret Hedican, Brad Ference and a 3rd rounder in 2000 that became Robert Fried. Fried appears to have disappeared after playing 4 years at Harvard. Yes, that Harvard.

Hedican stuck around for two full seasons after he was traded to the Panthers (202GP-17G-48A-65P) and was dealt in 2001-’02 to Carolina along with Kevyn Adams and Tomas Malec, where he would win a Cup in 2006. In return, the Panthers received Byron Ritchie (111GP-10G-15A-25P) and Sandis Ozolinsh (88GP-17G-38A-55P). While Ritchie would leave Florida as a free agent (he signed with the Calgary Flames, then the Canucks, and finally in Europe), Ozolinsh was traded to the Mighty Ducks for Matt Cullen, Pavel Trnka and a 2003 4th rounder that became James Pemberton.

At the age of 34, Cullen is still a productive player in the NHL today, but played a season and a half of his worst hockey (statistically) with the Panthers (86GP-12G-19A-31P). He would leave Florida as a free agent after the lockout and sign in Carolina. Trnka (89GP-3G-16A-19P) would head to Europe after the lockout and Pemberton never broke into a NHL roster.

Ferrence would spend about 4 years with the Panthers (167GP-4G-24A-28P) before heading to the Phoenix Coyotes for Darcy Hordichuk and a 2nd rounder in 2003, which which was traded again along with a bunch of other picks for the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 25th overall pick. Hordichuk played enforcer for the Panthers for 60 games (60GP-3G-1A-4P) where he’d amass 173 PIMs before heading to the Nashville Predators after the lockout and then signing with the Canucks. The Canucks traded him back to the Panthers for Andrew Peters last year, but signed as a free agent with the Edmonton Oilers this past off-season. The 25th overall pick would be Anthony Stewart (105GP-4G-8A-12P), who then signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Thrashers, where he would score go on to score 39 points in 80 games. He’s currently with the Carolina Hurricanes on a 2-year deal.

Today’s results: Like the Canucks, the Panthers received a number of decent assets when it was time to repackage an aging Bure with bad knees but squandered the draft picks on players that never even came close to making the big leagues. Anthony Stewart was probably the best they did in this entire mess but he still isn’t the sort of player you’d want to result from a first round pick and he left the club for nothing two years ago. As a result, the Panthers have nothing today to show for their end of the Bure trade, although they did get two productive, Rocket Richard Trophy-winning seasons out of the Russian Rocket.


Tough one to call. If it comes down to the Canucks getting 7 years of Jovocop compared to Florida’s 4 years of Bure’s services, I’d have to call that one in favor of the Canucks. Despite Bure being a bigger star, the Panthers only made the playoffs one of the years Bure was in the lineup and they were swept in 4 games by eventual Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils. On the other hand, the Canucks with Jovo in the lineup would return to the postseason (4 times in Jovo’s 7 years with the team) after missing it for 4 consecutive seasons during the dark Messier/Keenan era. He recorded 18 points (8G-10A) in 31 playoff games.

While both teams made poor choices with the assets they acquired as a result of this trade, the Panthers basically threw away three high draft picks during this time including a 9th overall. However, at least they got draft picks to waste. The Canucks didn’t even get that with a very poor return for all the players they received for Bure, including letting Jovanovski walk at the end of his contract. As a result, I’d call this one a draw.

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2 Responses

  1. November 3, 2011

    […] Ed Lau continues his series re-hashing retro trades between the Canucks and their unofficial farm team the Florida Panthers. Yesterday he discussed the infamous Bure trade. […]

  2. November 1, 2013

    […] years since he left the organization, which tells us there’s been some hesitation. Bure was traded to the Florida Panthers in 1999, and it left a very sour taste in his mouth. Many feel as though he didn’t do enough […]

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