No Trade, No Contract Extension Yet for Gretzky
Jan. 17, 1996
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) _ The new owners of the Los Angeles Kings have convinced Wayne Gretzky they want to win.
What remains unclear is whether management can bring in the 50-goal scorer and offensive-minded defenseman he believes are necessary to win a Stanley Cup this year.
Few details emerged from Tuesday's ballyhooed meeting between Gretzky's agent, Michael Barnett, and team representatives. Gretzky was not offered a contract extension, and no promises were made.
``For me to sit here and tell you guys I know exactly what happened in the meeting is not fair, I really don't,'' Gretzky said after getting two assists in the Kings' 5-5 tie with Calgary on Tuesday night.
``There's nothing really to resolve except that management has told me they would like to win, and that's the biggest thing I wanted resolved.''
Both sides stressed there is no timetable to resolve Gretzky's future, which is contrary to comments he made earlier this week saying he expected a resolution by Saturday's All-Star game in Boston.
``I don't expect miracles,'' he said. ``I know we're not going to go get players in the next five days, but my concern is this year. I really believe we have a chance to win.''
General manager Sam McMaster said talks would resume sometime after the All-Star game, in which Gretzky will start at center in his 15th All-Star appearance.
McMaster and Barnett were joined in the negotiations by Gretzky's attorney, Ron Fujikawa, team president Rogie Vachon and team governor and CEO Robert Sanderman. Neither of the team owners, Philip Anschutz or Edward Roski, were present.
``Our sole purpose today was to begin discussions that would result in a situation mutually beneficial to both parties,'' Barnett said. ``Ideally, a resolution that will see him retire as a King and end all the rumors.''
Barnett said only the length of the extension, not a dollar amount, was discussed.
Gretzky expressed concern that his outspokenness has created a distraction for his teammates, and he apologized to them before the game.
``I don't back down from what I've said, but I feel I've brought my teammates into that, and for that I'm sorry,'' he said. ``Sometimes, because of my name and the situation I'm in, things get bigger than even I expect them to get. Maybe it's a little bit unfair.''
Gretzky, who turns 35 next week, is free to leave Los Angeles next summer when he becomes a free agent. He is in the final year of a contract paying him $6.5 million this season.
A trade was not discussed by either side, despite rumors circulating this week that the Kings are trying to deal Gretzky to St. Louis, the New York Rangers or Toronto, among others.
``No demand or request for a trade to another team was discussed,'' Barnett said. ``It is not even in Wayne's thoughts at this time.''
``We have not talked to any hockey club about trading Wayne Gretzky,'' McMaster said.
The NHL's leading career scorer has said he needs to see action soon, and not just promises.
``Well, sometimes things can't happen as quickly in this hockey world as one might want,'' McMaster said. ``The Los Angeles Kings are reacting, hopefully, as quickly and possibly as expertly as we can.''
Previously, Gretzky has avoided going public with his demands. But with three months remaining on his contract, he has taken the opportunity to tell the Kings they must commit to winning now if he is to remain here.
``Wayne is under contract for the remainder of the season. We appreciate his concern and we're trying to work with him,'' Sanderman said. ``We have no deadline whatsoever about doing it. We have a sense of urgency, as he does, to get the job done.''
McMaster said he has no restrictions from ownership about going after the kind of players Gretzky wants.
``If there's a player who can help the Los Angeles Kings win, then I have the authority to go out and get that player,'' McMaster said. ``Then in the summertime, we might have an opportunity to go sign some free agents.''
But Gretzky made it clear the offseason may be too late.
``There's been a lot of talk about getting guys and my point is we haven't gotten anybody,'' he said. ``That's where it's at.''
Gretzky led Edmonton to four NHL championships before the blockbuster trade that sent him to the Kings in 1988. Since losing to Montreal in the 1993 finals, Los Angeles has failed to make the playoffs the last two seasons.
In the game, Calgary's Theoren Fleury scored three goals and teammate Gary Roberts forced overtime late in the third period.
The Kings matched their season high with four goals in the second period, but Fleury and Roberts scored four minutes apart in the final period to preserve Calgary's longest undefeated streak of the season at 3-0-2.
The Kings are 1-3-4 in their last six games.