The Tampa Bay Lightning hopes the Edmonton Oilers' headache will become its offensive remedy.
On Wednesday, the Lightning acquired six-time 30-goal scorer Petr Klima from the Oilers for future considerations.
"This is a very positive step for us to be competitive this year," said Tony Esposito, the team's director of hockey operations. "We were worried about going backwards. Instead, he gives us a lot more offense and takes the pressure off Brian Bradley."
There is no doubt that Klima (pronounced KLEE-muh) can play. The speedy and flashy right wing has 247 goals and 178 assists in eight NHL seasons. He's the finisher the Lightning needs to convert Bradley's nifty playmaking into goals. He also should help the Lightning's anemic power play.
This season, despite missing a month with a sprained knee, Klima led the Oilers with 32 goals in 68 games. Only Bradley, with 42 goals, scored more than that for Tampa Bay in its inaugural season.
But Klima, 28, has a reputation of being lazy on the ice. Off the ice, he has battled drinking and legal problems. He defected from Czechoslovakia in 1985 (why he wears No. 85) to play for Detroit. But during his four years in the Motor City, he was arrested three times for drunken driving and spent time in a county jail.
Those off-ice problems have seemed behind him since he was traded (along with Joe Murphy, Adam Graves and Jeff Sharples) to Edmonton on Nov. 2, 1989, for Jimmy Carson, Kevin McClelland and a draft pick.
Esposito said the Lightning checked Klima's background before making the trade.
"He hasn't had any problems in the last three years or longer," Esposito said. "He got married (and became a father), and he's very settled down in his ways."
If he is "handled properly," Klima will be happy in Tampa Bay and become a leader on a team that prides itself on its work ethic, Esposito added.
Tampa Bay acquired Klima for a small price _ one or two draft picks, no higher than the third round, Esposito said. "The future of the franchise isn't going down the drain with what we gave up," Esposito said. Klima is believed to be making $300,000 per year.
Klima, vacationing in Europe with his family, was unavailable for comment.
The 6-foot, 190-pound Klima had his best season in 1990-91: 40 goals and 28 assists. The season before, he helped the Oilers to the Stanley Cup, scoring at 5:13 of the third overtime to beat Boston in game Game 1 of the finals.
Ted Green took over as Edmonton's coach this season. His disciplined approach clashed with Klima's freewheeling, unphysical style. The two battled throughout the season, with Klima benched for a few games, including one against the Lightning.
Oilers general manager Glen Sather, who made the deal to get Klima and the deal to trade him, said Wednesday: "You can probably describe Petr in a 100 different ways. He has talent to burn, unlimited potential. I just found it very frustrating on the nights that he didn't always show up to play.
"We're trying to rebuild the organization through speed and enthusiasm. I want people who will contribute every night. That's something we couldn't always get Petr to do. Whether it was our fault or his or a combination, it was a situation that was unsolvable."
Esposito thinks those problems are solvable in Tampa Bay. Klima should get all the ice time he can handle. And he is expected to help make fellow Czech Roman Hamrlik's adjustment a bit easier.
"We think by getting Klima we have significantly improved the team," Esposito said. "We're excited about him and what he can do."