1/24/97 -- 8:39 PM

Blackhawks-Belfour Trade

CHICAGO (AP) - Unhappy Ed Belfour, twice a winner of the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender, on Friday was on the verge of being traded by the Chicago Blackhawks.

All the Blackhawks would say is that a tentative deal has been worked out and that the unnamed team involved requested that Belfour be scratched from the lineup of Friday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs while the trade is finalized.

The Blackhawks complied with the team's request, starting Jeff Hackett and calling up Jimmy Waite from the minors as Hackett's backup.

Blackhawks spokesman Jim DeMaria said the club hoped to have an announcement by the end of the night.

Belfour, the Vezina winner in 1991 and 1993, has been upset that he is splitting time with Hackett. In a heated locker room exchange last month, Belfour reportedly told Hackett that he was ``nothing more than a backup.''

With the team struggling - at 17-24-8 entering Friday's game, Chicago was seven games under .500 for the first time in eight years - Blackhawks general manager Bob Pulford had been looking to pull off some kind of trade.

Belfour, the 1991 NHL rookie of the year and backbone of the Blackhawks' run to the 1992 Stanley Cup finals, was the best candidate to be dealt.

His contract, paying him $2.75 million in 1995-96, expires at the end of the season and he can become an unrestricted free agent. The 31-year-old goalie already has turned down an extension that would have paid him about $3.3 million annually.

Belfour is having perhaps his worst season. He's 11-15-6 with a 2.69 goals-against average and is 1-7-4 since the start of December. Though Belfour's career GAA coming into the season was almost identical (2.65), scoring is down considerably in the league and 2.69 doesn't rank him among the leaders. Hackett's GAA going into Friday was 2.25.

Belfour wasn't at the United Center and wasn't home to talk to reporters by telephone.

In an interview earlier this month, he said: ``I'm disappointed with how we're playing and how I'm playing. There are just too many distractions right now.

``As a goaltender, you can be in a groove where you're seeing the puck perfectly, you're moving good, you're making all the saves. There are no distractions, you're feeling 100 percent physically and mentally, and you can't be beaten.

``But when there are distractions - trade rumors, contract problems, negative stories in the newspapers - there's the opposite effect. I'm struggling right now, and so is everybody else.''

Though Hackett has been in goal for four of Chicago's five last victories, coach Craig Hartsburg has insisted all season that ``Eddie's our number one goalie.''

In giving Hackett more playing time, however, Hartsburg said: ``But we haven't won, so we've got to change. We have to make a decision.''

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