With Bryan Murray having gone on record as saying he would like to land a top-six forward this summer, news has emerged out of Columbus that the Ottawa Senators are reportedly interested in acquiring Rick Nash.
Blue Jackets play-by-play man Jeff Rimmer went on The Fan radio station in Columbus this weekend and said that a good source had told him that the Senators have recently expressed interest in Nash.
Before we all get worked up, there are three things to consider:
1. There’s a good chance Bryan Murray has contacted Columbus about Nash — just like 28 other general managers probably have in the past few months. If you haven’t at least made a phone call to kick the tires on Nash, you’re not doing your job. So the fact that Murray has called about Nash shouldn’t be that surprising.
2. Ottawa was not on the approved list of teams that Nash reportedly submitted when he asked for a trade from Columbus. And his agent made it clear that the list of teams would not grow as this process moved forward. These things are always fluid and can change, but it’s interesting to note that Ottawa was not one of his preferred destinations.
3. The news of Ottawa being leaked as an interested team could easily be a tactic of Blue Jackets management to add more suitors to the Nash sweepstakes. In theory, this could drive up the asking price for a team like the New York Rangers or Boston Bruins.
But for a moment, let’s suppose there is genuine interest from the Senators in Rick Nash. If you’re an Ottawa fan, would you want Murray to pull the trigger on a blockbuster deal?
Nash is 28 years old, which might seem like he’s young — but perhaps there are indications that he’s on the downside of his career. Since scoring 40 goals in the 2008-09 season, his goal numbers have declined in each of the last three seasons, culminating with a 30-goal campaign in 2011-12. So is it realistic to expect him to return to the 40-goal plateau?
Since the lockout, only four players over the age of 28 have had multiple 40-goal seasons: Daniel Alfredsson, Teemu Selanne, Jarome Iginla and Marian Hossa. Nash is certainly at the same level as these snipers, but it underscores how difficult it is to score 40 goals in this league, once you reach your late 20s. The career arc for star players in the NHL players seems to be as follows: dominate in your early-to-mid 20s, sign a massive, long-term contract just before you are set to become an unrestricted free agent — and then watch your numbers either plateau or steadily decline.
The obvious attraction for Nash in Ottawa would be the chance to play with a world-class centre in Jason Spezza. With a dominant season in 2011-12, Spezza re-established himself as one of the best playmakers in the game, finishing fourth in league scoring. Putting Nash with Spezza could easily be a catalyst for the winger to return to his 40-goal status.
But when you trade for a player like Rick Nash, you are signaling that you are a Stanley Cup contender. Nash has six years left on his deal with a cap hit that is essentially $8 million per season. The Senators certainly have the room under the cap to make this work, but a move like this would mean a massive philosophical shift for the organization.
Ottawa would most certainly have to part with a player like first-round pick Mika Zibanejad, as well as goaltending prospect Robin Lehner. And when you start trading your most valuable prospects, it’s an indication that the future is right now.
The Los Angeles Kings showed that making bold, splashy trades can result in a Stanley Cup championship.
But in the same breath, we must remember that teams like the San Jose Sharks and Buffalo Sabres made bold, splashy moves for veterans and it didn’t work out last season. Landing Rick Nash might make you a Stanley Cup favourite in October, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you will be one in April.
And if the Senators are truly interested in his services, they will have a lot to consider when thinking about the ramifications of a trade like this.