4. Phil Esposito to the New York Rangers (1975)
Phil Esposito was already a Bruins legend at 33. He had been the league’s top scorer for six straight years and helped Boston to two cups. Along with Bobby Orr, this was a golden period for fans at Boston Garden. However, in 1975 the team was going through a slump. With Orr out through injury, the team wasn’t its usual brilliant self. Coach Don Cherry and Esposito were frequently at odds over Cherry’s coaching style and his tendency to backcheck.
‘Grapes’ wanted his Big Bad Bruins to embrace the tough, rigid style he had implemented. A product of the rough n’ tough 50’s hockey, Cherry had rebuilt his team with players who worked hard and weren’t afraid to be physical. He wanted a team that was balanced and that didn’t rely on individual talent. In conjunction with GM Harry Sinden, Esposito along with Carol Vadnais was traded to the New York Rangers. Going the other way were Brad Park and Jean Ratelle, both of whom would thrive under Cherry’s leadership.
Esposito was apparently devastated by the trade and years later remains extremely bitter about being blindsided. Particularly as three weeks prior he had signed a cut-price deal to remain a Bruin! Sinden allegedly had promised not to trade upon signing the contract. While Esposito remained a consistent scorer, his numbers declined dramatically in the Big Apple over the next six seasons. The move would also lead to a series of disagreements between Sinden and Cherry which resulted in his five-year tenure as coach ending in 1979.