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