THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
NEW YORK — Columbus Blue Jackets star Rick Nash got a taste of the New York media crush during a rare visit to Madison Square Garden.
Whether it’s a sign of things to come remains to be seen, but that question will likely be answered within the next week.
Nash is the biggest name in the NHL rumour mill heading toward the Feb. 27 trade deadline. The rugged forward has some say in whether he will leave Columbus — the only NHL team for which he has played — and he is definitely on the New York Rangers’ radar.
The 27-year-old Nash held a brief news conference Sunday night about two hours before the Blue Jackets faced the Rangers, but didn’t shed much light on whether he would prefer to leave Columbus, or if New York would be a good landing spot if he is sent packing.
"I’m fine," Nash said when asked if he was comfortable with the sudden media attention. "I played the Olympics a couple of times for Canada, so this is really nothing compared to that. It’s fun. In Columbus, we’ve got great media coverage, everyone is nice and great with the Blue Jackets. It’s definitely a good positive in Columbus."
Nash is signed through the 2014-15 season, and carries an annual salary cap hit of US$7.8 million.
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The Eastern Conference-leading Rangers would have to create cap space to fit Nash in, and would have to do it at the expense of affecting team chemistry that has put the club within shouting distance of the top record in the NHL.
"It’s going to take care of itself. I’m a Blue Jacket right now, and we’re playing great hockey," the Columbus captain said. "It’s fun to be around. It’s been a tough year for us, but, right now, when you’re winning games, as happens to every team, it becomes a different game."
Through 58 games this season before Sunday, Nash has 18 goals and 39 points. He has 277 goals and 527 points in 650 career games over nine NHL seasons. Nash has scored at least 30 goals six times, and reached 40 twice, including a career high of 41 in the 2003-04 season.
The Blue Jackets won four of seven heading into Sunday’s game, but they own the NHL’s worst record and aren’t within 10 points of any other team as they languish at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
Columbus is heading into a major rebuild, and the million dollar question is whether Nash — the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 draft — will be a part of the team’s future or be dealt to restock the club.
"I just worry about today," Nash said. "Right now I’m a Blue Jacket, and that’s what matters. I’ve played my whole career here, and that’s how I’m dealing with the game I’ve got to play in two hours. That’s all I’m worried about."
Nash declined to comment on whether he has put the Rangers on a list of teams he would accept a trade. He also wouldn’t say if he can see himself playing in New York or if he wants some resolution to his status with the Blue Jackets by next week’s deadline as opposed to having speculation stretch into the summer.
"I don’t really follow all those rumours," Nash said. "I worry about right now, and right now I’ve got a game to play in a couple of hours. That’s all I’m worried about."