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How Mark Messier’s Few Hours as a San Jose Shark Altered Several Franchises

For a brief few hours in NHL history, Mark Messier was a member of the San Jose Sharks.

You go down a lot of rabbit holes in my line of work. You start researching one thing and then jump to another and another until you stumble across a bit of information so incredibly outlandish that it cannot possibly be true.

You stop. Wait, you mean NHL All-Star, Hockey Hall of Famer, so good there’s an NHL award named after him Mark Messier? That Mark Messier? Why the hell don’t I have a Sharks’ jersey with the name Messier plastered across the back? Obviously, this is a misprint, and this site is crap.

Oh no. It’s true.

On June 30, 2003, the San Jose Sharks acquired the signing rights to Mark Messier. For a few hours, Messier, who was set to become a free agent the next day, was a San Jose Shark. The price San Jose paid was a fourth-round pick.

It was one of the first deals made by then brand new Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson, but it wasn’t all it seemed. As San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Ross McKeon explained, the deal helped the Rangers get something for nothing for the pending free agent Messier. The Sharks, in return, were set to get a compensatory draft pick.

Impact of the Messier trade

While seemingly insignificant at the time, the trade had a major impact on several NHL franchises, just not the Sharks. It’s an impact that’s still felt to this day.

For the New York Rangers, it saw a former captain and NHL star leave and then come back to play his final season. It also brought the team a future captain, gave the Tampa Bay Lightning a key cog in its two Stanley Cup Championships and helped the New York Islanders bring Bo Horvat to the East Coast.

In other words, one tiny move to help the Rangers get something for nothing and set off a chain of events felt throughout the NHL.

San Jose’s pick turns into Ryan Callahan

Let’s start with what San Jose lost in the trade—a fourth-round pick. At the time, it seemed like a safe trade. After all, how many fourth-rounders turn into NHL players? But, if you’re good and a little lucky, you can make lemonade out of lemons.

The New York Rangers used the fourth-round pick, 127th overall, to select Ryan Callahan. That’s right two-time representative for the United States at the Olympics, former New York Rangers Captain, he of 757 NHL games and 386 career points, defenseman Ryan Callahan.

Callahan played eight seasons for the Rangers until he was traded in 2014, along with a trio of picks, to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Martin St. Louis and a second-round pick. It was captain swap for the ages.

Callahan re-signed with the Lightning for six years, though injuries prevented him from playing out the rest of his contract. The Lightning eventually traded Callahan and a 2020 fifth-round pick (Eric Engstrand) to the Ottawa Senators and received goaltender Mike Condon and a 2020 sixth-round pick (Nick Capone).

Condon was injured when he came over and only played a few seasons in the AHL and the ECHL before he retired. The Lightning used the sixth-round pick to select Nick Capone. Capone is still playing college hockey.

Those picks traded to the Lightning with Callahan

Okay, so this is where things get sticky. The three picks bundled with Callahan were a conditional pick that turned into a 2014 first-round pick, a 2015 first-round pick and a 2015 seventh-round pick. They all got swapped several times before the music stopped.

  • The 2014 first-rounder was traded to the New York Islanders for two picks that became Dominik Masin and Johnathan MacLeod. Neither player has played an NHL game to date. Meanwhile, the Islanders used the 2014 first-rounder to select Josh Ho-Sang.
  • The 2015 first-round pick also ended up with the Islanders, who picked Anthony Beauvillier. Beauvillier, along with Aatu Raty and a 2023 first-round pick (Axel Sandin Pellikka) were later traded to the Vancouver Canucks for Bo Horvat. The Lightning received two picks in the trade with the Islanders and used them to select Mitchell Stevens and Anthony Cirelli, who signed an eight-year, $50 million contract with the Lightning in 2022. Stevens was later traded to the Detroit Red Wings for a 2022 sixth-round pick (Jared Wright). The sixth-round pick was combined with a 2022 fourth-round pick (Kenny Connors) and traded to the Los Angeles Kings for the 2022 third-round pick (Lucas Edmonds).
  • The 2015 seventh-round pick (Ziyat Paigin) in the trade returned to the Rangers via a subsequent trade with the Lightning. The Lightning received Daniel Walcott, who played one game for Tampa Bay and now plays in the AHL. The Rangers used the pick returned to them to bundle it with Cam Talbot in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers. The Rangers received the 57th (Jonas Siegenthaler), 79th (Sergei Zborovskiy) and 184th picks (Adam Huska) in the 2015 draft. The 57th pick was then traded to the Washington Capitals for the 62nd (Robin Kovacs) and 113th picks (Brad Morrison) in the draft.

Deep breath, that’s just one side of the tree.

Martin St. Louis and the second-round pick

On the other side, there’s Martin St. Louis and the second-round pick. St. Louis finished the 2013-14 season with the Rangers and played one more season before retiring.

The 2015 second-round pick made a few more stops before it found a home. The Rangers took it, a 2016 first-round pick and players John Moore and Anthony Duclair and traded them all to the Arizona Coyotes for Keith Yandle, Chris Summers and a 2016 fourth-round pick.

Yandle was set to become a free agent in 2016, but before then, the Rangers traded his rights to the Florida Panthers for a 2016 sixth-round pick. There was also a conditional 2017 fourth-round pick that the Rangers received when Yandle signed with the Panthers. The Rangers drafted goaltender Tyler Wall with the 2016 pick. The team traded the 2017 fourth-round pick (Scott Reedy) to the San Jose Sharks for the 123rd (Brandon Crawley) and 174th (Morgan Barron) picks in the draft.

The Rangers later traded Barron, a 2022 conditional pick that turned into a first-round pick (Brad Lambert), a 2022 second-round pick (Elias Salomonsson) and a 2023 fifth-round pick (Thomas Milic) to the Winnipeg Jets for Andrew Copp and a 2023 sixth-round pick (Dylan Roobroeck).

Copp ended up leaving the Rangers in the following free agency.

Summers, who was one of the pieces of the trade with the Coyotes, left the Rangers via free agency in 2017.

The 2016 fourth-round pick the Rangers received in the trade with the Coyotes was used to draft Tarmo Reunanen. In 2022, Reunanen was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for Maxim Letunov. Letunov later left the Rangers via free agency.

The trade with the Coyotes also had lasting impacts on Arizona. The team swapped the second-round pick it received from the Rangers and sent it to the Calgary Flames for two lower-round picks. The Flames used the second-round pick to draft Oliver Kylington, while the Coyotes used the two lower-round picks to draft Adin Hill (yes, Stanley Cup Champion Adin Hill) and Jens Looke.

The first-round pick acquired in the deal between the Coyotes and the Rangers was dealt to the Detroit Red Wings for a different 2016 first-round pick and Pavel Datsyuk (or really just his contract). Arizona sent Joe Vitale and a 2016 second-round pick along with the Rangers’ 2016 first-round pick in the deal. Detroit used the Rangers’ first-rounder to acquire Dennis Cholowski and then lost him in the Seattle Kraken expansion draft. Arizona used the pick it got from Detroit to draft Jakob Chychrun.

San Jose is the big loser in the deal

With all of those talented players and picks changing hands, you’d like to think that San Jose had a similar story. You’d be wrong.

The Sharks received a compensatory third-round pick after losing Messier back to the Rangers in free agency. San Jose thought it was a good idea to bundle the pick to move up six spots in the draft. The team took its 2004 first-round pick (Marc Fistric) and packaged it with a 2004 second-round pick (Raymond Sawada) and the 2004 compensatory third-round pick (Alexander Edler) and traded them to Dallas for a 2004 fifth-round pick (Steven Zalewski) and the 22nd pick overall. San Jose used the pick to select Lukas Kaspar, who played a handful of games in the 2008-09 season with the Sharks and then never made it back to the NHL.

Zalewski played for the Worcester Sharks in the AHL and was later traded along with Jay Leach to the New Jersey Devils for Patrick Davis and Mike Swift.

Looking back, those few hours with Messier didn’t do anything for the Sharks in the long run. The deal worked out great for the New York Rangers.