Seemingly every pundit and blogger has their thoughts on which teams could be active in the Rick Nash sweepstakes. So, here’s my take.
The news the Columbus Blue Jackets would entertain offers for team captain Rick Nash provided a much-needed boost into what was becoming a listless lead-up to the February 27th trade deadline.
The question, of course, is how many teams are genuinely interested, which of them are on Nash’s list of preferred trade destinations, what it could cost those teams to acquire him, and the potential impact – intentional or otherwise – upon the roster of the club he could go to.
It remains to be seen if the Blue Jackets would move Nash at this time of year, for despite the approach of the trade deadline, there’s a good possibility this could stretch into the summer, perhaps around the NHL Entry Draft weekend, for the Jackets to net the return they seek.
First here’s a look at the six teams believed to be on Nash’s “wish list” of preferred destinations, and what it would cost for each to land him.
Los Angeles Kings. In my humble opinion, the Kings stand the best chance to land Nash at the trade deadline, . They’re in danger of falling completely out of the Western Conference playoff race, are among the lowest-scoring teams in the league, and in desperate need of an offensive boost. They have a promising young goalie in Jonathan Bernier which would interest the Jackets, and if as rumored defenseman Jack Johnson is available, packaging him with Bernier, a promising young prospect or two and a first round pick could seal the deal. Two problems: Moving Bernier would leave them without a suitable backup for starter Jonathan Quick, and losing Johnson could be a serious blow to the Kings blueline depth.
NY Rangers. The Blueshirts have perhaps the most quality depth in talented young forwards (Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Derek Stepan) and defensemen (Michael Del Zotto, Ryan McDonagh) to entice the Blue Jackets. However, the Rangers are pulling away from the pack in the Eastern Conference, and have the makings of a Stanley Cup contender this year. Moving any two of the aforementioned players (which the Blue Jackets will certainly want, along with at least a top prospect and first round pick) could have the unintended consequence of unnecessarily disrupting the strong team chemistry the Rangers currently enjoy. Factor in the long-term consequences of his hefty salary limiting their ability to re-sign key players or bid competitively for other top free agents, and the risk could outweigh the reward.
Toronto Maple Leafs. The good news for the Leafs is they possess depth in young forwards (Tyler Bozak, Joe Colbourne) and defensemen (Luke Schenn, Jake Gardiner, Cody Franson) to offer up a solid package offer for Nash. The bad news is, such a move could gut their roster depth, and adding a first line right wing in Nash doesn’t address their need for quality depth at center, or an upgrade in goal. GM Brian Burke might not be keen to risk potentially gutting his cache of good young talent, risking depth problems down the road, by acquiring an expensive star like Nash.
Boston Bruins. The defending Stanley Cup champs possess considerable depth in young talent to make a competitive bid for Nash, but the Blue Jackets would in all likelihood want backup Tuukka Rask as part of the return, and that’s a non-starter for the Bruins, who see Rask as the heir apparent to Tim Thomas. Besides, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has stated numerous times he wants to keep his championship team intact as much as possible, so don’t expect him to go off script by sacrificing the depth needed to defend their title this spring.
San Jose Sharks. The Sharks would certainly have the cap space, now and in the future, to absorb Nash’s big salary, but the problem is the return would prove too costly. Looking at their roster, they could offer up defensemen like Jason Demers or Justin Braun, or maybe left wing Jamie McGinn, but the Blue Jackets would probably want either Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski or Brent Burns as part of the return, and Wilson won’t part with them.
Vancouver Canucks. Backup goalie Cory Schneider would have to be the centerpiece of any serious offer by the Canucks for Nash, but given how well he’s performed in tandem with Roberto Luongo this season (as well as concern over Luongo’s history of playoff meltdowns), it’s a good bet the Canucks won’t be interested. Factor in they’ve already got over $31 million tied up long-term in Luongo, the Sedin twins, Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis, and the chances of them landing Nash are pretty much nil.
And now, here’s a look at the teams which were rumored to have interest, or to have contacted the Blue Jackets, and why it’s unlikely they’ll be able to land him.
Philadelphia Flyers. Whenever a big name player hits the market, they’re almost always linked to the Flyers, and for good reason, given GM Paul Holmgren’s ability to pull off big deals to acquire star talent while dancing perilously close to the salary cap. The Flyers, however, aren’t believed on Nash’s list, so their pursuit of him would be a moot point. Besides, the Flyers don’t need more offense, but rather a long-term replacement for defenseman Chris Pronger, whose playing career could be over due to concussion.
Montreal Canadiens. The Columbus Dispatch initially reported the Canadiens were believed to have in interest in Nash, but they’re apparently not on Nash’s “wish list”. Even if they were, the cost would have to be popular young Habs like P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty, and/or Lars Eller. For those Habs fans praying for a big scoring superstar to patrol the right side on their first line, don’t get your hopes up about Nash. He’s not coming to Montreal, except with a visiting team.
Dallas Stars. GM Joe Nieuwendyk did his job by contacting Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson to inquire about Nash. Dallas hockey pundit Mike Heika believes there’s a chance the Stars could land Nash, citing the team’s new ownership, rebuilding process, and the growing depth on the Stars roster. Unfortunately, the Stars aren’t believed on Nash’s list, and I don’t believe Nieuwendyk would be able to convince him to come to Dallas.
St. Louis Blues. Cited as an “outlier” by a Boston hockey pundit, the Blues certainly have depth in quality goaltending and good young players to offer the Blue Jackets. The Blues do need to bolster their offense, but they’re playing very well right now, are among the best teams in the Western Conference, and have no need to make such a major move at this time. Their ownership situation hasn’t been settled yet, and management remains on a tight budget, meaning they cannot absorb Nash’s big salary right now. GM Doug Armstrong has also hinted he’d prefer to wait for injured forwards Andy McDonald (who recently returned to action), Alex Steen and Matt D’Agostini to return to action, rather than deal for scoring help.