five in­sane trades That might have been

The NHL had some block­busters this sum­mer, but check out th­ese near-deals from the past

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mark messier for brett hull

The Blues and Rangers shared a bizarre 1994 off-sea­son, one in which Stan­ley Cup-win­ning coach Mike Keenan bailed on New York to join St. Louis in a move packed with ques­tion­able be­hind-thescenes ma­neu­ver­ing that even­tu­ally led to fines and sus­pen­sions. But things al­most got even weirder when re­ports sur­faced that the teams were con­sid­er­ing a mega-trade in­volv­ing their cap­tains.

While a Messier-for-Hull deal sounds un­think­able to­day, the pieces seemed to line up at the time. Messier, 33 at the time, was em­broiled in a con­tract dis­pute with the Rangers, one that saw him hold out to try to force man­age­ment’s hand. And Hull, 30 that sum­mer of 1994, 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 re­port – and the spec­u­la­tion died down once camp ended and the first of Gary Bettman’s lock­outs be­gan. Once the sea­son started months later, Messier ended his hold­out, and any trade talk came to an end.

Hull ended up be­ing right about not get­ting along with Keenan, and ru­mors of a deal that would send him to New York con­tin­ued for years. As for Messier, he did end up re­unit­ing with Keenan a few years later. But it was in Van­cou­ver, and the less said about that, the bet­ter.

harold bal­lard sells frank Ma­hovlich

Frank Ma­hovlich is one of the most beloved Maple Leafs of all-time, so it stands to rea­son that Harold Bal­lard tried to ship him out of town. And it’s also not es­pe­cially sur­pris­ing to find out what Bal­lard wanted in re­turn – not a sim­i­lar player or a boat­load of prospects, but cold hard cash.

The of­fer was made back in 1962, when the 24-year-old Ma­hovlich was well es­tab­lished as one of the game’s best play­ers. Chicago owner James Nor­ris was hav­ing a few drinks with Bal­lard when the topic came up, and soon the two had a deal. The Hawks would buy Ma­hovlich for $1 mil­lion – at the time, the high­est sum ever for a pro ath­lete.

The of­fer was re­ported in the me­dia, which treated it as an of­fer un­der con­sid­er­a­tion. But it was more than that – the two men had made a deal. Once word got out, how­ever, Nor­ris’s brother Bruce stepped in to try to block the move. He en­listed the help of Leafs’ legend Conn Smythe, whose son Stafford was work­ing along­side Bal­lard, and the two were able to talk ev­ery­one out of go­ing forward.

Ma­hovlich went on to play six more years in Toronto, in­clud­ing four straight in which he was named to the league’s first or sec­ond all-star team, be­fore be­ing traded to the Red Wings in 1968. Mean­while, Bal­lard learned his les­son and never did any­thing crazy ever again.

NO. 1 messier Mark

frank ma­hovlich NO. 2

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