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The NHL / Julie Cart : Behind Dionne Trade: Esposito's Quick Fix in Bid for Stanley Cup

March 18, 1987|JULIE CART

The surprise of the trade of Marcel Dionne to the New York Rangers has finally begun to subside. The trade, which sent Dionne, minor leaguer Jeff Crossman and a third-round pick in 1989 to the Rangers for center Bob Carpenter and defenseman Tom Laidlaw, was all the more shocking because Dionne had requested it.

That such a trade would involve the Rangers was the least surprising aspect. Ranger General Manager Phil Esposito has made 21 deals since being named to his position July 14. Some observers in New York are wondering if Esposito has mortgaged the future for a quick fix.

Esposito summarized his thinking this way: "Enough waiting, that's what I'm saying. I'm going for it (the Stanley Cup) this year or next."

Esposito said that in giving up Laidlaw, 28, and Carpenter, 23, to get Dionne, 35, is not a big gamble since most of the Rangers' young prospects are centers.

"Bobby Carpenter, whatever (slump) he's in, is going to come out of it and score 35 or 40 goals," Esposito said. "But could I have afforded to wait? I'm taking the chance that I couldn't. We may not make the playoffs, and I couldn't have a guy with Bobby Carpenter's talent not producing for us and maybe not producing in the playoffs.

"Marcel is a man who can help the Rangers right now. Our feeling is that the Rangers have a chance to win (the Cup) this year or next year."

Reaction around the league is mixed. Lanny McDonald of the Calgary Flames, said the trade has been the talk of the Smythe Division.

"Even though Carpenter's had a disastrous year, there's lots of time left," he said. "Plus, I think Laidlaw's a good, solid defenseman. They're getting two players who can make a difference. I think it's a hell of a deal for L.A."

Another Flame, when told of the trade, said, "Espo must be nuts."

Chris Nilan of the Montreal Canadiens said: "When you hear of somebody of that caliber being traded, then you know that anybody in this league can be traded."

Last week was a tough one for Lou Nanne, general manager of the Minnesota North Stars.

On Monday night, Ron Wilson, the key to the team's power play, separated his shoulder in a 5-4 loss to Montreal.

Later that night, and into Tuesday morning, Nanne learned that the deal he thought he had made with the Rangers for Carpenter was falling through. Nanne was told that the Rangers did not want to deal Carpenter. Hours later, Carpenter was sent to the Kings for Dionne.

Still later that Tuesday, Nanne's son, Marty, who plays hockey for the University of Minnesota, cracked a rib in practice.

Wednesday, the North Stars lost to Toronto, 4-2, a loss that further dimmed their fading playoff hopes.

Saturday, Nanne visited the North Star locker room before a home game against Detroit, hoping to exhort the team to a win. Instead, the North Stars blew a 3-0 lead and lost 4-3.

Sunday, while standing in Chicago Stadium, Nanne reached into his pocket, dug out a tarnished nickel and hurled it across the floor. "That's what's been causing all our bad luck," he said. "I've been carrying this thing around for a week."

It worked. Minnesota goaltender Don Beaupre made 52 saves and the North Stars beat the Blackhawks, 4-2.

Nanne is among the most vocal of the NHL's general managers. He recently collapsed a stool while leaning over a railing to yell at referee Ron Fournier. Nanne was not fined.

"There's no reason to fine me," Nanne said. "About Ron Fournier, I just said, 'Absence makes the heart grow more fond and I'm sure I'd like him a lot more it they just assigned him to other teams' games.' "

Nanne has been known to follow a referee out of the arena to fully voice his displeasure. Although general managers are not allowed in the officials' locker rooms, Nanne once got as far as the closed door and yelled through to referee Ron Hoggarth, asking if he could come in.

"You just want to complain," Hoggarth said.

"No, I just want to ask a question," Nanne said.

When Hoggarth relented and opened the door, Nanne asked: "Why are you always so terrible when you ref our games?"

NHL Notes The afterglow of Rendez-Vous apparently boosted attendance at the 12 NHL games the weekend after the NHL-Soviet series. The Red Wings, for instance, drew 19,166 for a game in Detroit, and average attendance for the dozen weekend games exceeded 16,000, a few thousand more than the season average. . . . Detroit Coach Jacques Demers on defenseman Mike O'Connell: "He seems to be too good a person to be playing hockey." . . . Edmonton's Wayne Gretzky is the only player in modern times to average more than two points a game, which he has done for the last six seasons. He also has six straight seasons with more than 100 assists. . . . New York Islander goaltender Kelly Hrudey passes the time at airports by playing practical jokes. His favorite is the dollar-bill-on-a-thread routine. When a passer-by stoops to pick up the dollar, Hrudey jerks the string. This cracks up the Islanders, who, obviously, have retained their high school senses of humor.

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