The New York Rangers introduced Marcel Dionne to reporters in New York Wednesday, and an emotional Dionne said he was sad to leave the Kings but "very, very, very happy" to join the Rangers.
"This is where I was made to be, coming to an organization that has great potential," Dionne said in a crowded press conference at Madison Square Garden before the Rangers played the Boston Bruins Wednesday night.
"Phil Esposito (Ranger general manager) had great interest in me, and the Kings let me go," Dionne said.
Dionne had asked the Kings Monday night to trade him. Thirty minutes before the NHL trading deadline Tuesday, Dionne was dealt to New York, along with minor league center Jeff Crossman and a third-round pick in the 1989 draft. The Kings got center Bobby Carpenter and defenseman Tom Laidlaw.
Dionne, who played 12 years with the Kings, had grown increasingly dissatisfied this season.
Dionne, the second-leading scorer in NHL history, said he became frustrated when he asked where he fit into the Kings' future. At 35, he had an option year on his contract next season, but General Manager Rogie Vachon's policy is not to renegotiate until after the season.
"(The frustration) built up after the Pat Quinn incident, although they will probably deny it," Dionne said.
Quinn, the former King coach, was suspended from the NHL on Jan. 10.
"I have to say (the Kings) treated me very well," Dionne said. "Jerry Buss (King majority owner) was very good to me. But I had to know at that time and if I had to wait a little bit longer, I would be in trouble.
"I wanted to finish my career in L.A. I waited until Sunday. If we had lost (to Vancouver Sunday), I wouldn't have done it then."
Dionne said that Alan Eagleson, his agent, had met with Vachon last month and asked him if there was a chance to negotiate.
"I wanted to know who was in charge," Dionne said. "My intent was to find out what I would be doing with the organization, whether I would be a full-time player, the fourth center, or if I would be spending time with the younger players. It was important for me to know now."
Dionne hasn't signed a contract with the Rangers yet, but it is believed he was offered two years and an option year. He'll likely earn less than the $600,000 a year he made with the Kings, but can make up the difference in bonuses.
"Money was not an issue," he said. "I would go somewhere else and take less money. Deep down, I was hoping this would not happen. But I had the feeling that there was not going to be other things for me there, and it was better for me to go."
Dionne said it was especially hard to leave the three King rookies he has helped this season. Two of them, Jimmy Carson and Luc Robitaille, spent Tuesday afternoon at his home. "I shed tears, I cried all day today," he said. "I'm proud of them. They've watched the whole situation. Jimmy was handling all the messages and Luc took care of my kids. I'm so proud I could do something for them."
Dionne was assigned his old number, 16, after Ranger center Kelly Kisio gave it up.
Dionne said he experienced a change from his King experiences as he walked into Madison Square Garden and was recognized by a fan. "That doesn't happen too much in L.A."
Meanwhile, the new Kings, Laidlaw and Carpenter, are expected to join the team today and both are expected to play Saturday night, when the Kings play the Quebec Nordiques at the Forum.
Both players expressed shock at the trade. Carpenter had only been acquired by New York from Washington Jan. 1. Laidlaw has played all of his seven NHL seasons with the Rangers.
"I was shocked, yes," Laidlaw said from his home in Rye Brook, N.Y., Tuesday. "I think the longer you're with a team, the less you feel you're going to be traded. Knowing that the trade deadline was coming up, and knowing Phil, I guess we all were waiting."
Laidlaw, at 6 feet 2 inches and 190 pounds, is exactly what the Kings were looking for--a big stay-at-home defenseman. He'll fill the hole left by Larry Playfair, who is out for the season after knee surgery.
"I talked with Rogie this morning," Laidlaw said. "He said they had offensive defensemen, and that they wanted someone like me. I know that it isn't a hockey hotbed out there, but it's a nice place."
Laidlaw was paired with King defenseman Grant Ledyard before the Rangers traded Ledyard to the Kings last season.
Both Laidlaw and Carpenter have one year and an option year left on their contracts.
Carpenter flew here Wednesday afternoon. His agent, Bob Murray, said in an interview from Boston that the trade had been an "enormous shock."
"Bobby felt he would be there (New York) for some time," Murray said. "I had heard some rumors but I dismissed them. I didn't think Phil would trade him. I didn't think Phil would give up on Bobby as quickly as he did. Obviously, Bobby has not been playing well, but that will change."
Carpenter, 23, has had 2 goals and 8 assists in 10 games with the Rangers.
"Bobby wants to fit in," Murray said. "He wants to play hockey and I think he'll get some playing time there."