For much of the '90s and 2000s, the NY Islanders franchise was in disarray. The team was consistently near the bottom of the standings and became known for their awful asset management, constantly getting rid of valuable players. The 2000 NHL Entry Draft may have been rock bottom for the Islanders and the Mike Milbury era as the former GM completed what would be looked back on as one of the worst trades in the history of the NHL.
At the Saddledome in Calgary, AB, the site of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Milbury reached a deal with GM Brian Murray and the Florida Panthers to send Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen to the sunshine state in return for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha.
Luongo was a former fourth overall pick by the Islanders in 1997. He made his debut in 1999 making 24 appearances posting a 3.25 GAA and a SV% just over .900. Jokinen came over from the LA Kings in a deal that sent Zigmund Palffy and Brian Smolinski to the west coast. He also only played one season with the Isles in the 1999-00 season, having a pedestrian year scoring 11 goals and adding 10 assists (21 points).
"We didn't get chopped liver in return. We filled the holes we wanted to fill. It's a win-win day for us. We're doing a little dance over at the Islanders' table."- Mike Milbury
Parrish was two years into his NHL career at the time of the trade and had a solid first two seasons in Florida, scoring 24 and 26 goals, respectively. Spending his next five seasons with the Islanders, Parrish would keep consistent with his first two seasons in Florida. He scored 20 goals in four seasons in the blue and orange and had a career year in 2001-02, where he scored 30 goals to go with his 30 assists. The Bloomington, Minnesota native consistently finished among the team leaders in scoring year in and year out. His final season with the Isles was in 2005-06, eventually being traded to the LA Kings at the deadline.
Kvasha, a native of Moscow, was an intimidating forward, standing at 6'5" and weighing in at 230 lbs. As a physical force, Kvasha spent five seasons on Long Island alongside Parrish. Not known for his scoring prowess, Kvasha struggled to put points on the board. In his five seasons, he only topped the 40-point mark once, scoring 51 points, good enough to tie for the team lead with Trent Hunter. Like Parrish, Kvasha was moved before the trade deadline to the Phoenix Coyotes for a third-round pick in the 2006 draft. That pick would eventually be transferred to the Boston Bruins and ultimately used to select Brad Marchand.
When Milbury decided to send Luongo and Jokinen packing at the 2000 NHL Draft, he did so with a risky plan up his sleeve. The Islanders owned the first and fifth overall picks in that year's draft. Milbury selected Rick DiPietro first overall, the first goaltender to ever be taken with the top pick and Raffi Torres at number five. Along with Luongo and Jokinen, he also shipped off former fifth overall pick Eric Brewer to the Edmonton Oilers in a package that returned Roman Hamrlik.
"As dangerous as this might be, maybe Mad Mike has something going for him. We have not made the playoffs in far too long. We need to get there. It's a roll of the dice."- Mike Milbury
The risk taken by Milbury proved to be devastating and one which is still discussed across the NHL over 20 years later. Though Parrish and Kvasha were serviceable assets to the Islanders, both would have nowhere near the success that Jokinen and Luongo had over their prestigious careers.
Jokinen made over 1,200 appearances in 17 seasons with 10 different teams. Though he played the most NHL games before finally reaching the playoffs (799), Jokinen still went on to total 750 points in his career.
As for Luongo, he would become one of the best to ever strap on the pads in the NHL. Though the Vezina Trophy eluded him for the duration of his career, Luongo finished second in voting for the Vezina and the Hart Trophy in his first season with the Vancouver Canucks. He is one of only three goaltenders to appear in 1,000 games and currently sits fourth on the all-time wins list (489). On June 27, it was announced that Luongo's career will be forever enshrined in the Hall of Fame come this November.
Torres and DiPietro, who were part of Milbury's plan to replace Luongo and Jokinen, both never reached their potential. Torres would not score a goal as a member of the Islanders, failing to do so in any of his 31 games with the team. In his 12 NHL seasons, he would become known for his on-ice antics more than his talent.
DiPietro became known for having what is considered the worst contract in NHL history when he signed a 15-year $67.5M contract in 2006. after completing the first two seasons of the decade-and-a-half deal, DiPietro would only make ten-plus appearances in a single season as injuries derailed his career. He made his final appearance in 2012-13 before being placed on waivers. His contract would continue to run until 2020-21.
In 2018, Parrish appeared on NHL Network where the trade that sent him to Florida was revisited. Even Parrish himself admits that at the time of the trade, he thought it was a bad deal himself. "I was two years into my NHL career and I remember thinking, that's a bad trade," said Parrish about his conversation with the Panthers GM Brian Murray.
Not only was Parrish right in his analysis, but the trade also wound up being worst for the Islanders than anybody could have imagined. This is a trade that would get most GMs fired, but Milbury was still allowed to operate the Islanders' front office for six more seasons and continue his string of poor decisions.