By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
No. 23: December 31, 1987 – The Sabres trade Paul Cyr and a 10th-round draft choice in 1988 (Eric Fenton) to the New York Rangers for Mike Donnelly and a fifth-round draft choice in 1988 (Alexander Mogilny).
Sometimes the most innocent transaction can change the world of sports in huge and dramatic ways … eventually. Such was the case when the Sabres gave up on their hopes that Paul Cyr would live up to his perceived potential and traded him – even if Cyr wasn’t the most important part of the swap.
Cyr was a No. 1 draft choice in 1982, the ninth overall choice. He had scored 52 goals in 58 games in his last year of junior hockey. He reached his NHL peak in 1984-85 by scoring 22 goals, but by the end of the 1987 calendar year his time was up. Cyr was swapped for Mike Donnelly, who had once scored 59 goals in 44 games for Michigan State University but had trouble finding the net in the NHL.
Cyr never did regain his scoring touch, while Donnelly had a couple of 29-goal seasons in Los Angeles. But the key to the deal was a fifth-round pick that the Rangers added to the package. Buffalo took Alexander Mogilny, considered the best young player in the world but who was playing in the Soviet Union at the time. World events started to speed up around that time, and in 1989 Mogilny became the first Soviet hockey player to defect to play in the NHL. That made him an international celebrity, and Mogilny went on to score 473 goals in a 16-year career.
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