The First Trade
Date: December 2, 1980
Leafs Acquire: Cash
Jets Acquire: Richard Mulhern
After going their first year in the NHL without making a deal, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the original Winnipeg Jets struck a deal shortly into the 1980-81 season.
It’s no secret the 1980’s Toronto Maple Leafs were not good, to say the least.
In the 1979-80 season, the team finished 35-40-5 for 75 points and were swept in the first round by the Minnesota North Stars.
On the blueline, the Leafs only had three regulars that appeared in the lineup for most of the season. Borje Salming, Ian Turnbull, and Dave Burrows were the only defenders to play more than 70 games, fourth on the team was way down at 46. In total, the 1979-80 Leafs used 13 defencemen that season, including Richard Mulhern.
Mulhern, an 8th overall pick by the Atlanta Flames, had seen his play diminish significantly since his 44 point rookie season in 1976-77. By 1980, Mulhern had become a depth defenceman that was struggling through back injuries.
After starting the year in Los Angeles, Mulhern was claimed off of waivers mid-way through the 1979-80 season by the Leafs, serving as a solid depth defender on a team that had cycled through their fair share of options.
Come 1980-81, however, and Toronto had restocked the cupboards. Turnbull and Salming remained, but the likes of Dave Farrish, Robert Picard, Vitezslav Duris, and Barry Melrose entering the fray resulted in Mulhern being sent down.
It wasn’t until December 2, 1980, when the Toronto Maple Leafs found a new home for Mulhern when he was sent to Winnipeg in the first deal between the two franchises.
Unfortunately, Mulhern’s 19 games for the Jets in 1980-81 would be his last in professional hockey, as he decided to retire at just 26 citing back injuries resulting in declining play.