Brett Hull is convinced his days with the St. Louis Blues are numbered.
With the season opener a week away, the team’s star right wing wouldn’t be surprised if he was traded any day. Rumors have been swirling throughout training camp, with Chicago the most talked-about destination. Blues general manager Larry Pleau met with Chicago GM Bob Murray after Monday’s exhibition in St. Louis.
Hull, who got his third goal of the preseason in a 3-3 tie, on Tuesday said it was strange playing against a team trying to acquire him for a team supposedly trying to get rid of him.
“I think about it all the time,” Hull said. “It’s hard to try to fit into the systems if you’re not even sure if you’re going to be here the next day or if they’re going to call you off the ice during practice.”
Most of his teammates don’t know what to think.
“I think anything can happen,” left wing Joe Murphy said. “Nobody’s untouchable.”
Hull, who has been with the Blues since 1987, is entering the option year of his contract and had wanted a new deal before the start of training camp. The Blues offered $10 million for three years, while Hull is seeking $20-25 million for four or five years, which he said represents only a $300,000 raise per season.
Hull said it’s obvious the Blues aren’t interested in re-signing him because there has been no movement from their initial position. He’s been told by team president Mark Sauer and Pleau that the Blues’ negotiating stance is nothing personal, just that they don’t have any more money to spend.
“It’s handwriting on the wall,” Hull said. “I think if anything was going to be done, the first offer wouldn’t have been as low as it was.”
Pleau, who met with Hull last week, was non-committal about the negotiations.
“I’ve talked to his agent throughout the last month and to Brett a couple of times,” Pleau said. “Both parties are trying to resolve it.
“I’m always optimistic in these things. My mind is always open.”
Hull blames Mike Keenan for throwing the team’s salary structure out of whack during his 2-1/2 years as general manager and coach. Keenan has been criticized for overpaying for free agents such as Murphy and Geoff Courtnall.
“This guy tried to trade me for three years and he couldn’t, and it’s going to be him who gets me in the end because of how he screwed up the budget,” Hull said. “They don’t have any money, I guess, because Keenan spent it all.”
If nothing happens, Hull will play out his option and most likely move on. He said he’s not bitter, just disappointed.
“It’ll be tough to swallow, but it’s part of the game,” Hull said.
Coach Joel Quenneville, who’s entering his first full season with the team, is a very interested bystander. But that’s all.
“I’m not getting involved either way,” Quenneville said. “I’ve got to coach Brett and I’ve got to work with Larry. You respect both parties.”
Hull said he’d be willing to help out by deferring a portion of his salary just as another St. Louis star, Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire, did on the three-year, $28.5 million contract he signed last week. Other than that, he said his situation and that of McGwire’s are completely different.
“He’s making $9-point-something for three years and they’re saying he took less,” Hull said. “Come on, you can’t compare me and McGwire.
“He’s a free agent again in three years, I’m a free agent after this year and never again.”