Kings Go for Coffey in Trade : Hockey: L.A. gives up Benning, Chychrun and first-round draft choice in a three-team, seven-player deal.


Sometime around 2 a.m. Wednesday, Paul Coffey stood in the middle of the ice in empty Civic Arena in Pittsburgh and said goodby.

To his late coach, Bob Johnson, to his teammates and fans, and to five years as a Penguin player.

Eighteen hours later, Coffey stood on the crowded ice at Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton and said hello.


To the Kings, to teammates old and new.

In 18 hours, Coffey’s life had turned around. The Kings hope that, as a result, the same thing will now happen to their Stanley Cup hopes.

Coffey was the central figure Wednesday in a three-team, seven-player trade involving the Kings, Pittsburgh and the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Kings gave up defensemen Brian Benning and Jeff Chychrun, and their No. 1 draft choice in 1992 to get Coffey.

When all the wheeling and dealing was done, the result was:

--The Kings had Coffey.

--The Penguins got Chychrun from Los Angeles, and right wing Rick Tocchet, defenseman Kjell Samuelsson, goalie Ken Wregget and a 1993 draft choice, believed to be a third-rounder, from Philadelphia.

--The Flyers got Benning from the Kings along with the Kings’ No. 1 pick, and wing Mark Recchi from Pittsburgh.

Coffey is thus reunited with four of his former Edmonton Oiler teammates from the Stanley Cup-winning years of the ‘80s--Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Charlie Huddy and Marty McSorley.


“He’s got speed, quickness and the ability to come in late on the play,” Gretzky said of Coffey. “He fits in with us as well as anybody in the league.”

The 30-year-old Coffey, in his 12th NHL season, is the No. 1 point-producing defenseman in NHL history. He has amassed 1,108 points (317 goals and 791 assists, both league records for a defenseman) in 863 games.

After spending seven seasons in Edmonton where he was on three Stanley Cup winners, Coffey was traded to Pittsburgh in November of 1987 after a contract dispute. Last spring, he was on another Stanley Cup winner.

Coffey is a three-time winner of the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman and a three-time, first-team All-Star.

An eye injury and a broken jaw limited Coffey to 12 of the Penguins’ 24 playoff games last season.

Coffey, recently troubled by a pulled hip muscle, had 10 goals and 63 points for Pittsburgh in 54 games this season.

The Kings will assume Coffey’s contract. He is in the second year of a five-year deal that will pay him $1 million this season, $1.1 million next season, $1.3 million the season after and $1.45 million in the final year. That pushes owner Bruce McNall’s payroll, already the highest in the league, well over $13 million.

“Bruce and Rogie (Vachon, general manager) have done whatever they can to bring a championship (to Los Angeles),” Gretzky said. “The bottom line now is that we have to win. If we don’t, the whole situation will be reassessed in the off-season.”

Part of the reason Coffey was traded was his high price tag.

“It’s one of those things that boils down to business,” he said. “It tends to be an emotional roller coaster.

“I’m relieved it’s finally over. It’s been a great five years in Pittsburgh, but a trade was always hanging over my head.”

The Kings have had a different sort of problem hanging over their heads since obtaining Kurri at the end of last season in a trade that forced them to surrender Steve Duchesne, their only offensive defenseman and the point man on their power play. Both are Coffey specialties.

Vachon canceled a trip to the Winter Olympics to go to Pittsburgh nearly two weeks ago, partly to pursue Coffey. When talks broke down, Vachon brought Philadelphia into the deal.

The Kings felt the defensemen they traded were expendable. The 25-year-old Benning was in his eighth NHL season and his second full year with the Kings. In 53 games this season, he had two goals, 30 assists and 99 penalty minutes.

The 25-year-old Chychrun, in his sixth season, had come to the Kings in the Kurri deal. But this has been an especially difficult year for Chychrun, whose mother died suddenly. Earlier, Chychrun was slow to recover from a hand injury. In 26 games, he had three assists and 76 penalty minutes.

Coffey has only 62 penalty minutes, but that’s fine with the Kings.

“You don’t ask goal scorers to check,” said new teammate Larry Robinson, “and you don’t ask checkers to score. But he’s capable of combining both.”

No argument from Vachon.

“He (Coffey) gives us a dimension we didn’t have,” Vachon said, “a threat from the blue line. We really felt to be a legitimate contender, we needed this type of defender.”

The only knock on Coffey is that he is not a great defender, that his offense sometimes comes at the expense of his defense.

“Paul Coffey can play defense when he wants to,” Robinson said. “We know what he’s capable of doing. It depends on what’s asked of him.”

The Kings, it would seem, will be asking quite a bit.