Mark Messier for Brett Hull, the rumored blockbuster that never happened

NHL: All Star Game
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Let me take you back in time to the summer of 1994 and the euphoria of a Rangers Stanley Cup victory. You see, what everyone seems to forget in the aftermath of that glorious time in Blueshirts history is that Mark Messier was embroiled in a contract dispute.

The Forgotten Problems after the Cup

Mark Messier
Rangers Mark Messier (11) comes away from a check to Vancouver’s Trevor Linden (16) during game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals at Madison Square Garden June 14, 1994. The Rangers won the game 3-2 and the Stanley Cup. Credit: © Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News

The Captain was looking for a new deal at $6M per season after delivering the Rangers to the promised land. At the time, it would make him the 2nd highest paid player in the NHL behind Wayne Gretzky. This dispute is often overshadowed by the Mike Keenan debacle and move to St. Louis as well as the departure of President, Bob Gutkowski.

In 2016, an article appeared in The Hockey News about this supposedly discussed blockbuster deal because Brett Hull wanted nothing to do with playing for Mike Keenan.

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.


Was this really going to happen?

According to an article in the NY Times, it was discussed within the Blues front office. It was even mentioned that Brett Hull, and not Petr Nedved was supposed to be part of the compensation package for taking Mike Keenan.

A person familiar with the thinking of the Blues’ front office said yesterday that the Blues would be very interested in trading Hull to the Rangers for Messier. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Blues would probably be willing to pay Messier a figure that would make him happy.


When this article came out, I contacted Neil Smith directly to ask him about this potential blockbuster. The former Rangers GM 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 was concerned, that irrefutably killed that rumor.

Eventually the Rangers came to a deal that paid him the $6M he was looking for 6 years and the rest is Rangers history.

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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