Kings Send Carpenter to Bruins to Get Kasper

Times Staff Writer

General Manager Rogie Vachon, acting like a man who believes the Kings have a shot at winning the Stanley Cup this spring--a laughable notion in the pre-Gretzky era--made another deal Monday, sending forward Bobby Carpenter to the Boston Bruins for center Steve Kasper.

In trading Carpenter, Vachon gave up the player who cost the Kings center Marcel Dionne 2 years ago but never regained his scoring touch, even with the advantage of playing left wing with Wayne Gretzky.

In Kasper, 27, the Kings are getting a player once voted the top defensive forward in the National Hockey League, a reputation earned in great measure by his skill in shadowing Gretzky.

“We’re getting ready,” Vachon said, looking forward to the playoffs. “Our team has been giving up too many goals, and we have to adjust defensively to go into the playoffs.


“Steve Kasper is the type of guy we needed,” Vachon added. “He is one of the best defensive forwards in the league, and he is an outstanding penalty killer.

“We have to really start thinking defensive hockey. There are some teams, you’re not going to get too many good scoring chances. That’s when you have to play a grinding game and wait for your chances. We haven’t been doing that consistently, which is one of our problems.”

Kasper became the second Bruin-turned-King in 3 days. Late Saturday night, Vachon--looking for more muscle--obtained wing Jay Miller for future considerations, which at the time figured to be a mid-round draft choice. The Carpenter-Kasper deal wipes out any further compensation by the Kings for Miller.

The timing of Monday’s trade was curious, because Carpenter has not played since Dec. 31, when he broke a bone in his right hand, affecting his thumb. But the injury-wracked Bruins, Stanley Cup finalists last spring but 3 games below .500 this season, decided after consecutive weekend defeats by Buffalo to make the deal.

“It might look like a bit of a shot,” Boston General Manager Harry Sinden said, “but it’s not easy to go out and deal for a goal-scorer. Hopefully, we’ll get him scoring again.”

Sinden said that Carpenter, who was scheduled to be examined by a doctor in Los Angeles today, thought he could have his cast removed and be ready to play in a week to 10 days. One King official, however, estimated that it could be closer to a month before Carpenter returns.

Carpenter, the first American player ever to make the jump from high school to the NHL, scored 53 goals for the Washington Capitals in 1984-85, the first American to score 50 or more. He was 22 years old.

Now, after a brief stint--28 games--with the New York Rangers and 120 games with the Kings, Carpenter will be playing for his fourth team before his 26th birthday.

“I’m reading nothing into that,” Sinden said. “I’ve learned not to read something into situations like that. If I’d believed what was out there at the time we traded for Rick Middleton, I would have been 100% wrong.”

Middleton, who retired last season, was a journeyman forward who blossomed into a 50-goal scorer with the Bruins.

Carpenter had only 11 goals and 15 assists in 39 games this season. After scoring 145 goals in his first 4 seasons, all with Washington, Carpenter’s totals read: 27, 9, 19 and 11.

Sinden is hoping that a return to the Boston area, where Carpenter was a prep star, will help to revive his game.

“I thought he was playing pretty damn good until he got hurt,” Sinden said. “I’ve always followed his career, but in those last couple of weeks I noticed a change in his play. A little more intensity, a little more drive.”

Carpenter came to the Kings on March 10, 1987, from the New York Rangers, along with defenseman Tom Laidlaw, for Dionne, Jeff Crossman and the Kings’ third-round pick in this year’s draft.

“It’s a case where we weren’t really dissatisfied with him,” Vachon said. “He worked really hard in the time he was here. We were just expecting a little more offense from him.”

Coach Robbie Ftorek, who said that Carpenter reported to camp in great shape last fall, moved him from center to left wing to give him a chance to play with Gretzky.

Guaranteed goals? Not for everyone, Ftorek said.

“Bobby worked so hard this year--I thought his defensive game improved immensely,” Ftorek said.

“But with Wayne, you’ve got to relax and play, don’t be intimidated. Some players become intimidated a little bit, at least subconsciously. . . . It’s a difficult position to be put into.”

That difficulty wears off, Ftorek said, once you start scoring goals and recognize when to take your shot and when to make a play. Carpenter, however, never got going.

“He didn’t shoot the puck as much as we would have liked him to shoot it,” Ftorek said. “He’s got a great shot.

“Bobby has so much talent, I feel confident in him. I know he was coming around. He’s going home now, and the shorter rink (at Boston Garden) with his quickness should help him.”

Vachon said he has been after Kasper for 3 years. In 1982, Kasper won the Selke Award as best defensive forward. As a rookie, he followed Gretzky everywhere so closely that after a game at Edmonton, when Kasper failed to show up on the team bus and Coach Gerry Cheevers wondered where he was, another player said: “He followed Gretzky home.”

Kasper, who is 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds, has 10 goals and 16 assists in 49 games. Last season was his best offensively, with 26 goals and 44 assists. Besides being a strong penalty killer, he is regarded an excellent faceoff player.

“There was never a time he put on the Bruins’ uniform when he didn’t play all out,” Sinden said. “Never.”

Kasper is expected to join the Kings in time for tonight’s game against the Washington Capitals.

“The way it looks, the Bruins are going nowhere right now in a hurry,” Kasper said Monday. “Now I’m going to a team that seems to be making a real run at things.

“They’re certainly not just the Wayne Gretzky show. His coming to L.A. has made other guys believe they can do it, too. Guys like (Bernie) Nicholls and (Luc) Robitaille.

"(Mike) Krushelnyski and (Marty) McSorley have been there before, and from everything I read, (John) Tonelli has been playing like a kid.”