The news was first reported by Renaud Lavoie of RDS, the french version of TSN: the Columbus Blue Jackets’ GM Scott Howson has Rick Nash on the trading block. Since then it’s been confirmed by other credible sources such as Bob McKenzie of TSN and Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch.
Whatever it was that Columbus hoped they had built this summer with the additions of Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski clearly didn’t pan out, so this feels like one final hail mary from Howson before he too finds himself on the block – not so much the trade one, as the one used for chopping. He’s desperate.
Nash has a no-trade clause in his contract so he’ll have a lot of say in if he stays or goes, but my takeaway from the rumblings around the situation is that he’s not happy with the way things are going there, and not all that thrilled at the prospect of being a part of the franchise’s eleventy billionth rebuild (an impressive number for a team that’s only been around for a dozen seasons).
So! Which teams are likely to acquire him? You’ll be shocked to hear that there’s a good deal of interest in the 27-year old six-time 30 goal-scorer who’s under contract until 2018 (meaning he’s not just a rental player) at a high-but-fair cap hit of 7.8 million dollars.
The most likely team to land him right now appears to be the New York Rangers. As I wrote on Thursday, the Rangers have just under seven million in cap space, so if they trade back so much as a single player, they’d be under the ceiling. And, the opportunity to pair Nash with um, NHL players, must seem like an intriguing possiblity for the Blueshirts. He had a 40 goal season in Columbus where he tallied 16 assists, which is to say he could benefit from having a little more talent around him (I don’t care if he’s not a playmaker, you pick up 16 assists blindfolded on a good team).
If the Rangers do have to part with a player or two and not just picks/prospects, rumours have Brandon Dubinsky going back the other way. He’s the type of glue guy you hate to see a team part with, but his disappointing 24 points in 51 games rightfully have him in the doghouse.
Columbus has had scouts at two of the last four Rangers games, we can assume they’re getting serious about deciding who they like on New York’s roster.
The other rumoured possibilities, in order of who I think is most likely to land him, are Los Angeles (feeble offense), Philadelphia (Holmgren be crazy), Vancouver, Washington, San Jose and Toronto.
Nash is an elite player in the NHL. His numbers are surprisingly low (consistent 70 point guy) over the course of his career, but his goal totals are not. That’s a pretty solid indication that he could get a nice statistical kick in the pants by playing on a better team.
His best offensive years are likely not ahead of him, but he’s in that happy middle chunk of his career where players generally maintain their numbers, and are a little older and wiser. Any team that has him gets a solid five more years at a fair price.
Because you simply can’t guarantee prospect development, I’d have no problem shipping a few over to Columbus in a deal. If you could take any two prospects (and a decent pick and decent player), and *poof* turn that into Rick Nash, I think you’d be foolish not to. It’s not that hard to replace 2nd/3rd line guys – finding the top end difference-makers is another story.
Whatever comes over in a trade is going to have fans saying that Team X overpaid for Nash, because fans (especially those of Canadian teams) badly overvalue prospects.
I’ve written about Nash before – every time I get to see him in international competition I hate that I don’t get to see him more (I don’t watch many Columbus games, as I may have mentioned awhile ago), and that he hasn’t had the opportunity to play more meaningful games. There are the rumours that he has no interest in playing in a fishbowl, in playing for a team in a major market, but losing wears on a guy. Sometimes you have to make a little sacrifice.
Because of that, I think whoever gets Nash gets a rejuvenated, interested player. I would love to see this happen.
So stay-tuned – given that there’s basically zero other NHL trade rumours this season, here’s your dead horse for the year. Let the beatings begin.