King owner Bruce McNall never wanted to part with Jimmy Carson when he made the blockbuster Wayne Gretzky deal with the Edmonton Oilers in 1988.
Now, nearly 4 1/2 years later, Carson is returning to Los Angeles. But it took another major trade Friday as the Kings sent defenseman Paul Coffey, right wing Jim Hiller and minor league center Sylvain Courturier to the Detroit Red Wings for Carson and two minor leaguers, center/right wing Gary Shuchuk and right wing Marc Potvin.
"I'm shocked, that would be my word for it," said Carson, who has twice scored 100 or more points in a season. "If I had to be traded, L.A. would be one of my first choices. Bruce McNall told me when he traded me before that someday he'd get me back.
"But I didn't really believe him."
This season, Carson, 24, has scored 25 goals and 51 points in 52 games, leading the Red Wings with 13 power-play goals. Shuchuk, 25, is leading the American Hockey League in scoring with 77 points in 47 games for Adirondack. He once played on the same line with King forward Tony Granato at the University of Wisconsin. Potvin, 26, is also at Adirondack, where he has 109 penalty minutes in 37 games while scoring eight goals and 20 points.
Hiller, 23, became expendable because of his lack of offensive output, having scored 12 points in 40 games this season. Courturier, 24, has spent the entire season in Phoenix.
Many King players expressed disbelief when the trade was announced. Although rumors of an impending trade had been prevalent for the last couple of weeks, Coffey, 31, was considered a popular figure with the club's young defensemen.
Forward Warren Rychel lives in an apartment with Coffey and Hiller in Manhattan Beach, and he answered the phone when General Manager Nick Beverley called at 7 a.m. "The way they were passing the phone around, I thought I was next," Rychel said.
Coffey said: "I knew Nick Beverley wasn't calling at 7 in the morning to ask me to go to breakfast."
Some other teammates were angered by Friday's developments.
One player declined to comment, and Gretzky left the team's practice facility in Van Nuys without speaking to reporters. Gretzky, one of Coffey's best friends, was said to be quite upset over the trade. The two broke into the NHL together at Edmonton.
"One thing I'm a little disappointed about is I came out here last year to play with Wayne," said Coffey, who is the NHL's all-time leading scorer among defensemen. "That's probably the toughest part of this whole thing. He wants to win at all costs. That's all he wants to do is win. He's frustrated right now. He's been back three weeks now, and it's not happening. I phoned him this morning at 7 when I found out. He was upset. There were tears, and (his wife) Janet was real upset.
"I often wonder why they made this trade. I don't know why I'm going to Detroit. Nothing against Detroit. . . . There was so much pressure on Wayne. One thing I wanted to do was take some of the heat off him and put it on my shoulders. I feel real bad for Wayne. I feel real empty right now. How many times do you strike up a fabulous friendship like that?"
If Gretzky, Coffey and other Kings weren't pleased about the trade, the sentiment, obviously, was somewhat different with Beverley and Coach Barry Melrose.
Melrose had wanted Shuchuk and Potvin even before the season started, having known them from coaching at Adirondack last season. Beverley was on the Kings' scouting staff when the team made Carson its second pick overall in the 1986 draft.
"To get the deal done, it had to become a bigger deal," Melrose said. "What we gave up is a great defenseman. We gave up one player who was playing regularly, for three people who can play regularly. The reason we were able to do this is because of the development of our young defensemen. We're putting our future in the hands of our kids."
Said Beverley: "It certainly isn't easy at any time to move a player of that caliber. We're singing a lot of praise toward Paul Coffey, and rightfully so. But I'm not apologizing for making the deal. Jimmy Carson is a great player in his own right."
Carson's path back to Los Angeles wasn't a smooth one. He grew disenchanted with the Oilers and left them during the 1989-90 season after four games. Edmonton traded him to Detroit in a six-player deal that November.
"I'm sad to be leaving Detroit because I'm from there and have a lot of family and friends there," Carson said. "It could be a heck of a lot worse. It's a good career move. I'll get (more) ice time because Detroit has a good team and they're strong at center."
* Jimmy Carson--Center who was traded to Edmonton for Wayne Gretzky returns to L.A.
* Gary Shuchuk--Leads the American Hockey League in scoring with 77 points.
* Marc Potvin--Right wing had 109 penalty minutes in 37 minor league games.
* RED WINGS GET:
* Paul Coffey--The NHL's all-time leading scorer among defensemen says he is disappointed because he had wanted to continue playing with Wayne Gretzky.
* Jim Hiller--Right wing, Coffey's roommate.
* Sylvain Courturier--A minor league center.