Ulf Dahlen was quietly one of the more intelligent players of his generation. He had a number of good skills but every bit as important he really understood the intricacies of the game.
The Rangers drafted Dahlen 7th overall in 1985, taking him over the likes of Calle Johanson, Joe Nieuwendyk and Sean Burke. And hey why not - Dahlen was being championed as a new breed of European player, combining hockey sense, good hands and a dominating physical game. He dominated at the 1985 European junior championships, captaining Sweden to a gold medal.
After fulfilling his mandatory military training Dahlen came to North America in 1987 after helping his native Umea win the Swedish championship and earning a bronze medal at the World Championships.
After 3 seasons of challenging the 30 goal mark the Rangers moved Dahlen to Minnesota in exchange for star sniper Mike Gartner. It was in Minny that Dahlen is best associated with. He enjoyed his finest seasons there, pushing the 35 goal and 75 point mark.
Yet it was not exactly an easy time for Dahlen. Ownership problems would see the team split into two and the franchise split with half the players moving to Dallas and the other half heading to San Jose. Apparently there was a back room deal between the North Stars and San Jose a full year before the Sharks actually took to the ice. Dahlen would go to San Jose but Minnesota had the right to kill the deal at any point that season. Those close to the situation said it was hard on Dahlen who felt the pressure of auditioning for a job with his own team on a nightly basis. He played well though, and the Stars kept him as they moved to Dallas.
Interestingly, before the end of the first season in Dallas the Sharks did get their wish, and acquired Dahlen in a trade for defensemen Mike Lalor and Doug Zmolek. Dahlen played admirably in 4 seasons in San Jose, but the goals were hard to come by as the expansion Sharks were one of the worst teams in NHL history.
By the time the Sharks were getting better Dahlen was moved along and began the vagabond days that older hockey players often experience near the end of their careers. Dahlen spent half a season in Chicago, 2 seasons back home with HV71 in the Swedish Elite League, 3 seasons in Washington before one final season in Dallas.
All said, Ulf Dahlen played 966 career NHL games over 14 seasons, scoring 301 goals, 354 assists and 655 points. He was a very solid, often under-appreciated NHL player.