Today is the 30th Anniversary of Wayne Gretzky's trade from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings.
Gretzky was traded to LA for a package that included Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, three future first-round (traded to NJ for Corey Foster, Marty Rucinsky, Nick Stajduhar) draft picks and $15 million.
The Oilers said that they approached the Rangers because their owners at the time, Gulf and Western, "could afford him."
Espositio said at the time that he was interested in Gretzky but that once they started discussing terms he lost interest.
The Rangers GM said at the time that it would be great to have Gretzky but "who's he going to play with."
In recent years, Esposito said that the Rangers and Oilers agreed on players but could not agree on money.
Adam Rotter: Adding Gretzky would have made a ton of sense for the Rangers in the exact same way that adding Mark Messier made sense in 1991. It would have been a lot for the Rangers to give up though they ended up moving Sandstrom the following year to land a center in Bernie Nicholls. Nicholls was then, of course, traded by the Rangers to acquire Mark Messier and that deal ended up working out well. It would have been a lot to give up, but to land Gretzky at that point in his career would have probably been worth it.
It's strange to imagine how different the NHL and the Rangers would be if Gretzky landed in New York instead of LA. Everything around that time for the Rangers builds towards landing Messier and then, obviously, winning the Stanley Cup in 1994. What would have happened if Gretzky joined the 1988-89 Rangers? He would have paired up with a 20-year old rookie defenseman named Brian Leetch, would have immediately become captain and probably has his number in the rafters. He would have been an enormous star in New York, like he was when he came to the Rangers at the end of his career, and would have been the centerpiece of the Rangers push to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1940.