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The Bookie

Nolan Baumgartner: Obscure Former Player of the Week

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Grantland, which features some of the best sports writing on the web, has gradually been including more hockey content (ironically, it seems like the soap opera of the lockout started this). Recently they brought on blogger Sean McIndoe of Down Goes Brown fame to do a weekly column called NHL Grab Bag, including an obscure former player topic. This week .... the Baumer:

NHL history is filled with legendary players whose stories are passed down from generation to generation. This is not one of those players.

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This week’s obscure player is journeyman defenseman Nolan Baumgartner.

Baumgartner was a first-round draft pick who never quite lived up to expectations. He played parts of 10 seasons in the NHL, but stayed in the league for an entire year only once. He moved around a lot but was traded only once, in a straight-up deal for a player (Remi Royer) who never saw another NHL game. The rest of his moves consisted of various free-agent signings and waiver-wire claims, including going from Vancouver to Pittsburgh and then back to Vancouver in the course of a few weeks in 2003.

Overall, he had a completely unremarkable career. Which is strange, because before his NHL career began, Nolan Baumgartner was part of one the biggest trades in the history of the NHL … twice.

Remember how we mentioned that Baumgartner was a former first-round pick? It was the 10th overall pick of the 1994 draft. That pick had originally belonged to the Flyers, but they’d traded it to Quebec as part of the infamous Eric Lindros blockbuster in 1992. That trade saw the Flyers give up an enormous package of players, picks, and cash, including future Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg.

Almost two years to the day later, the Nordiques traded the pick to the Maple Leafs as part of the Mats Sundin–Wendel Clark trade. While not quite as historic as the Lindros deal, that trade was the only one in NHL history to feature two former first-overall picks being traded for each other. Just for fun, the pick was traded once more (for Mike Ridley) before the Capitals finally used it on Baumgartner.

So Nolan Baumgartner was the answer to a trivia question before he even made it up to the stage to pull on a Caps sweater. It turns out, that was as good as his career was going to get.

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