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Roy’s Backup Will Be Kings’ No. 1 in Goal

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Kings solidified the goaltender position Thursday by acquiring Stephane Fiset from the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche in exchange for left wing Eric Lacroix.

Fiset, 26, immediately becomes the Kings’ No. 1 goaltender, as the organization unofficially parted ways with veteran Kelly Hrudey, who has been the incumbent since the 1988-89 season. That move had been widely expected, and King General Manager Sam McMaster called Hrudey at his home in Calgary to tell him the news shortly after the trade.

Hrudey was not surprised to hear the Kings will not try to retain him when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

“I told Sam [McMaster] in January that I knew this would happen,” said the 35-year-old Hrudey. “It was not unexpected. We are excited and it’s at the right point in my career. We probably stayed together one year too many [with the Kings].”

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McMaster was able to acquire Fiset without paying an overly high price or trading a big part of the future away. There were serious questions as to whether journeyman Byron Dafoe or rookie Jamie Storr could carry the full-time burden of a No. 1.

Additionally, the Kings and the Avalanche swapped first-round draft choices in 1998. For Lacroix, who said he had mixed feelings and cried when he heard the news, the trade means he will be playing for his father, Pierre, the general manager of the Avalanche.

Fiset had asked for a trade just after the Avalanche defeated the Florida Panthers in the finals, and Lacroix was able to bring his son to Denver. Which meant the Kings secured a young and proven No. 1 goaltender who had been sitting behind one of the best playoff performers in Patrick Roy.

“We’ve been talking about it since Day One,” McMaster said Thursday from the team’s draft headquarters in St. Louis. “We knew we wanted to obtain a proven No. 1, and he’s fairly youthful at 26. We watched him a lot once they made the trade [to obtain Roy], and we knew he’d eventually be available. He’s maturing into being a great goaltender.”

It took a future Hall of Fame talent such as Roy to keep Fiset on the bench. Fiset, who strung together nine consecutive victories this season, recorded a 22-6-7 record with a goals-against average of 2.93 in 37 games in 1995-96. The previous season, he went 17-10-3 with an average of 2.78 in 32 games.

He is heading into the final year of his contract and is scheduled to make $787,500 (Canadian) next season. His contract is laden with performance bonuses for victories, which hurt him after Roy arrived in Colorado.

“I’m a little surprised,” Fiset said from his home in Victoriaville, Canada. “I was waiting for Saturday for it to happen at the draft. It was best for me to have the chance to play somewhere, not because I wasn’t happy, but it is time for me to play.”

Lacroix, who turns 25 in July, thoroughly enjoyed playing for the Kings, pointing out the team gave him a chance to play. Oddly enough, his father never tipped him off that he was trying to make this trade when he spent last week with the family.

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“I swear to God, I didn’t think I was going to get traded,” said Lacroix, who had 16 goals and 16 assists in 72 games last season. “I flew to Florida when they won the Cup. I didn’t go there as a player, I went there as a son. I’ve never seen my father so happy. I wanted to be there for him. And now, it’s great. I’m going to a team that just won the Stanley Cup.”

King Notes

Although Kelly Hrudey had a turbulent season, he said he was not bitter. Nevertheless, he expressed regret over the treatment of former teammate Wayne Gretzky, who left for St. Louis this past season.

“I’m a little disappointed in the smear campaign the organization has against Wayne and all his major accomplishments and effort to improve the Kings,” Hrudey said. “He’s like Jack Nicklaus, Michael Jordan and Cal Ripken. He’s done nothing but improve the organization. It went from being worth $15 million to being sold for nearly $120 million. His contributions are beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.”

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

TRADE AT A GLANCE

TO THE KINGS

STEPHANE FISET

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* Position--Goaltender.

* Date of birth--June 17, 1970, Montreal.

* Height--6-1. * Weight--195 pounds.

* 1995-96 statistics--37 games played, 22-6-7 record, 2.93 goals against average. Recorded nine consecutive victories from Oct. 18-Nov. 18 and 12-game unbeaten streak from Oct. 18-Dec. 1.

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* Notable--Selected 24th overall in the 1988 entry draft by Quebec.

TO THE AVALANCHE

ERIC LACROIX

* Position--Left wing.

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* Date of birth--July 15, 1971, Montreal.

* Height--6-1. * Weight--205 pounds.

* 1995-96 statistics--72 games played, 16 goals and 16 assists, 32 points, 110 penalty minutes.

* Notable--Selected 136th overall in 1990 entry draft by Toronto. Traded to the Kings by the Maple Leafs on Oct. 3, 1994.

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