Mark Messier for Brett Hull post 1994? Neil Smith set the record straight

mark messier
Feb 8, 2019; New York, NY, USA; Former New York Rangers captain Mark Messier waves to the crowd during the ceremony honoring the 1994 Stanley Cup Championship New York Rangers team at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Sean McIndoe, better known as Down Goes Brown to most, wrote an eyebrow raising piece for The Hockey News yesterday. In Five Blockbuster Trades That Almost Happened, he mentioned the Rangers twice.

At this point, it is very well known that the Rangers tried to acquire Steven Stamkos very early in his NHL career. If you want to read more about that, we covered it here. The blockbuster that had me stunned was Mark Messier for Brett Hull!

Messier for Hull

Sean wrote in the article:

Messier was embroiled in a contract dispute with the Rangers, one that saw him hold out to try to force management’s hand. And Hull was rumored to want no part of playing for Keenan, a notorious hard-nose who could be tough on his stars. A deal to reunite Messier and Keenan while sending the talkative Hull to the bright lights of Broadway made a lot of sense.

And apparently, the deal was discussed, and may have been close. Just how close is up for debate – Rangers GM Neil Smith later denied the reports – and the speculation died down once training camp ended and the first of Gary Bettman’s lockouts began. Once the season finally started months later, Messier ended his holdout and any trade talk came to an end.

Maybe because it was so long ago, I just don’t remember it, but it seems plausible in hindsight. Still, the Rangers had just won the Stanley Cup after 54 years and Messier led the team there. I don’t think any GM in their right mind would make such a move under any circumstances.

Neil Smith Responds
neil smith 1994
Rangers GM Neil Smith holds up the Stanley Cup after the Rangers defeated Vancouver 3-2 in game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals at Madison Square Garden June 14, 1994. Rangers Win Stanley Cup

Over the years of running this site, I have had several exchanges with Neil Smith through Twitter. When I read this story, I had to message him and ask. Neil wrote back that he had read that also.

When I asked if there was any truth to it, he told me, “I did not discuss trading Messier ever to anybody. I don’t know where that story is coming from.” As far as I’m concerned, that irrefutably kills this rumor.

So there you have, straight from the GM that brought the Rangers their only Stanley Cup since 1940.

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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