Bringing up painful memories of awful trades is difficult, but necessary. They say that if you don’t learn from history, you’re doomed to repeat it.
The Ottawa Senators traded Ben Bishop to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Cory Conacher in 2013, which didn’t seem as hilariously bad of a deal at the time, but really ended up being a cautionary tale of grand larceny.
Conacher was in the middle of his rookie season and had 24 points in 35 games. Standing at just 5’8’’ and weighing only 180 LBS, Conacher had overcome far more challenges in his life than just playing productively in the NHL at that small size.
Conacher was born with his bladder outside his body, and required a 10 hour surgery at just 5 days old to reconstruct his pelvis and relocate his bladder inside his body. Doctors didn’t think he’d ever walk properly, let alone play professional hockey.
At age 8, Conacher was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, and is a heroic example of the tremendous obstacles that can be overcome to achieve your dreams.
Given his remarkable journey, it’s almost callous to lament his lack of production for the Senators, but as inspirational as Conacher’s story is, it unfortunately includes some underachievement while in Ottawa.
In 72 career games with the Senators, Conacher registered 25 points, which is just 1 more than he did in only 35 games with the Lightning.
Less than one year removed from finishing 6th in voting for the Calder Trophy, Conacher was waived by the Senators due to his inefficiency.
Normally a trade like this can be shrugged off with less effort, but Bishop has become a star. He has finished in the top 3 in the Vezina Trophy voting twice, lead the NHL in goals against average in 2015-2016, and guided the Lightning to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2015.
That’s harder to get over, as Bishop has become one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL. Conversely, Conacher has only played 24 games in the NHL since being waived by the Senators, and spent last season playing with the SC Bern, coincidentally the last team that new Senators head coach Guy Boucher presided over. Boucher got to coach Conacher before being fired in November of 2015.
Boucher had also coached Conacher in Tampa Bay during the 2012-2013 NHL season, but was fired less than 2 weeks before the team traded Conacher to the Senators. Boucher has the distinction of being fired by two different teams that Conacher was on.
Conacher has now returned to the NHL by signing a 1 year deal with the Lightning for $575,000, so the team has the satisfaction of not only having a star goaltender, but getting back the guy that they had to give up to acquire that goaltender.
Conacher is a quick, elusive player on offense, and while his size will always present impediments, he’ll get another chance to revive his career with the NHL franchise that he had the most success with.
He serves as a painful reminder of what the Senators foolishly gave up with Bishop, and now the Lightning can boast the psychological victory of getting back the guy they originally shipped away for their star goaltender.
Conacher’s story is inspirational, but it also includes the unfortunate connection to the Senators making a horrendously bad personnel decision.