The New York Islanders, struggling in the NHL standings and at the box office, traded two of the cornerstones of their franchise yesterday, sending holdout center Pat LaFontaine to the Buffalo Sabres and center Brent Sutter, captain of the team, to the Chicago Blackhawks.
In addition to LaFontaine, the Islanders sent left wing Randy Wood, defenseman Randy Hillier and future considerations to Buffalo for center Pierre Turgeon, defenseman Ewe Krupp, center Benoit Hogue and forward Dave McLlwain.
Then New York packaged Sutter and left wing Brad Lauer to Chicago for center Adam Creighton and left wing Steve Thomas.
The trade broke a contract stalemate that had existed between LaFontaine and the Islanders. The ex-Olympian had demanded renegotiation of his $425,000 contract for more than a year and had been a holdout this season, rejecting the team's last offer of a four-year, $6 million deal. Part of the stalemate was created by the potential sale of the team, which has been on the market for about a year.
The Islanders' season-ticket sales have slipped badly after the team finished last in two of the past three seasons. The club
barely drew 6,000 fans to its last home game against the Winnipeg Jets.
LaFontaine, 26, played seven seasons with the Islanders and was one of only three players in club history to score 50 or more goals in a season, reaching 54 in 1989-90. His production dipped to 41 goals last season when the contract issue became a factor and he demanded a trade.
Turgeon, 22, was the No. 1 pick in the NHL amateur draft in 1987. He played four years for the Sabres, scoring 120 goals, and was Buffalo's leading scorer this season with two goals and six assists in eight games. His best season was 1989-90, when he scored 40 goals and had 106 points.
Hogue had 45 goals in three full seasons with Buffalo, and Krupp, a 6-foot-6, 235-pound defenseman, played in the NHL All-Star Game last season. McLlwain started the season with the Winnipeg Jets and also has played for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Wood scored 24 goals in each of his two full seasons with the Islanders. Hillier signed as a free agent with New York last summer after playing three seasons with Boston and seven with Pittsburgh.
Sutter, 29, was the last link to the Islanders' Stanley Cup era, when New York won the NHL title four straight seasons beginning in 1980.
In Chicago, Sutter joins two of his brothers, Darryl, who is the club's associate coach, and Duane, a scout.
Creighton had six goals and six assists in 11 games. Thomas had two goals and six assists for Chicago.
* PENGUINS: The team signed center Ron Francis to a multiyear contract and expects him to play tonight against the Canadiens, a Pittsburgh spokesman said.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the Pittsburgh Press reported that it was a five-year deal worth $4.1 million.