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

Messier, Gretzky, Hull (Getty)

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

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.

THN via Forever Blueshirts 2016

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.

NY TIMES

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.