The Back To The Future ride goes back farther in time to snag yet another former player from the past.
Last summer, the New Jersey Devils brought Bobby Holik and Brian Rolston back into the fold after spending significant time elsewhere in the National Hockey League. Both were members of the 1995 Stanley Cup championship team.
Now enter Brendan Shanahan.
Three Stanley Cups and 17 years later, Shanahan returns to where he started his NHL career. That would be in New Jersey.
Devils president, chief executive officer and general manager Lou Lamoriello announced today that Shanahan has agreed in principle to join the Devils this season. The soon-to-be 40-year-old future Hall of Famer has been an unrestricted free agent since July 1, 2008 after spending the last two seasons with the New York Rangers.
Shanahan was drafted second overall by the Devils in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft at age 18. Only Pierre Turgeon was drafted ahead of him that year. He was in his rookie season when the Devils qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in franchise history in 1988.
But July 25, 1991 would be a key day in Devils history. Shanahan signed a free agent contract with the St. Louis Blues. It was not so much the signing that was significant, but it would be the compensation the Devils would receive for losing him. New Jersey received the rights to Hall of Fame defenseman Scott Stevens and the rest is history in his place in franchise lure.
Following four productive seasons in St. Louis where it included his career season of 52 goals and 50 assists for 102 points in the 1993-1994 campaign, Shanahan was traded to the Hartford Whalers on July 27, 1995 for defenseman Chris Pronger. But the turning point of his accomplished career was after a difficult year-plus in Hartford, he was traded to the Detroit Red Wings in a multiplayer deal on October 9, 1996 that included Hall of Fame defenseman Paul Coffey and forward Keith Primeau.
It was with the Red Wings where Shanahan enjoyed the most success as he was a key member of that team's back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1997 and 1998 and again in 2002. He even won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 2003 for being a player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution to his community.
Due to not being in the Red Wings' plans as they vowed to cut payroll and get younger following the 2005-2006 season, Shanahan as an unrestricted free agent would sign with the Rangers. In his first season for New York, he scored his milestone 600th NHL goal, but had missed significant time with a concussion as a result of an on-ice collision with Philadelphia Flyers forward Mike Knuble. Last season, he helped the Rangers reach the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the second straight year by defeating the Devils in the opening round. But by then, his production had dropped off and New York was looking to go in another direction in terms of the makeup of their roster.
Shanahan had held out hope for a while that he could return to the Rangers and turned down offers from teams such as one of his former clubs in the Blues. The Flyers were rumored to be in the mix for his services, but when all was said and done, he wanted to remain in the New York City metropolitan area and chose to play for the Devils. A contract will be finalized during the upcoming week.
What does Lamoriello see for Shanahan in New Jersey the second time around?
"In our minds, Brendan can be a full-time player," Lamoriello said in today's conference call with the media. "It's no different than any other player. They determine the ice time that they get, and the coaches determine how much they're used within how the games go. He's not being signed just to play on power plays, or just to play (on penalty kills). We feel he can come and help this team be better and have more success."
The Toronto native began his NHL career by totaling 88 goals and 126 assists for 214 points in 281 games for the Devils from 1987 to 1991. Now he has 650 goals (11th all-time) and 1340 points (24th all-time) on his NHL resume. Not too shabby are his 59 goals and 72 assists for 131 points in 177 playoff games.
What factored into Shanahan's decision to play for the Devils in 2009?
"Obviously I have a history with Lou – Lou drafted me," Shanahan stated in today's conference call. "I feel fortunate that a situation like this opened up. I remained patient. I had some really good, tempting offers from good people and good teams, but this to me was about finding the right fit."
Unlike some players at his age, Shanahan still wants to play and win again in the NHL. When he makes his season debut with the Devils has yet to be determined, but will be ready to play soon.
"I feel well-rested and at the same I feel I've got a stronger base than I've had in many years I used the time off to train hard," he said. "How long it takes, I really don't know. But I've got a strong desire to play, and burning desire to get back and help my new team."