More than four months after requesting a trade out of Columbus, Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash is still awaiting his fate. And now that the NHL’s most coveted free agents have yanked on new jerseys (no pun intended, Zach), the hockey world’s chatter is back to focusing on where Nash (and, to a lesser extent, Roberto Luongo and Bobby Ryan) will end up.
“We are working very hard,” Jackets general manager Scott Howson told reporters last week, but the GM is not facing a deadline to strike a deal and little progress in the Nash trade talks has been reported.
Since Nash holds a no-trade clause in his contract, the powerful and skilled left winger has given the club a list of six possible destinations, reports the Columbus Dispatch.
Who makes Nash’s approved list?
The Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks.
Regarding former UFAs Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the worst thing that could’ve happened for Howson was both of them landing in the Western Conference. Which is precisely what happened. Had an Atlantic Division powerhouse nabbed Parise, it could have sparked an arms race amongst the formidable Rangers, Flyers and Penguins – and a bidding war that Howson could have exploited.
Instead, these teams seem to be waiting for Howson to get impatient with his disgruntled five-time all-star and trade him at a loss.
Nash has six seasons remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $7.8 million per season, according to CapGeek.com.
A big-time scorer in a small market, the 28-year-old Nash is one of only four players to score a minimum of 30 goals in each of the past five seasons (Jarome Iginla, Ilya Kovalchuk and Alex Ovechkin are the others). Howson’s asking price is high, too high for Nash to move by the midseason trade deadline, as many suspected would happen. Howson insists he wants “market value” for his franchise player.
We take a look at the six squads that could land the Brampton, Ont., native and Olympic gold medalist.
Why they could close the deal: Despite losing in the opening round of the 2012 playoffs and seeing star goaltender Tim Thomas embark off to nowhere, the 2011 champions still believe they’re a contender. Tuukka Rask could well fill Thomas’s skates in net, and a solid group — David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Chris Kelly, Zdeno Chara, Rich Peverley – is locked up for at least the next two seasons. Adding Nash tells fans they’re going for their second Cup in three years.
What could be a deal-breaker: Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic and Rask will all be restricted free agents at the end of 2012-13, but do the Bruins really want to part with any of these key components? Surely those are the players Columbus would be eyeing. Them or highly touted young defenceman Dougie Hamilton – the player projected long-term to assume Chara’s role as Boston quarterback.
Detroit Red Wings
Why they could close the deal: Having bid and lost out on Suter, Parise, Sami Salo, Matt Carle and Justin Schultz, the cash-flush Red Wings could be feeling antsy to land a big name, especially after the loss of perennial Norris candidate Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement and forward Jiri Hudler to free agency. Further, the Wings have a few prospects, namely forwards Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, who would see more ice time in Columbus.
What could be a deal-breaker: Three things: Detroit’s biggest void is on the blue line, which is likely where the Wings will devote their discussions and cap space. Second, with UFA Alexander Semin still available, it’s conceivable that the Russian wildcard signs a short-term deal in Hockeytown. (Same goes with Shane Doan.) Finally: Why would the Jackets trade their best player to the Central Division rival? Is the point not to beat the Wings?
New York Rangers
Why they could close the deal: The Rangers have a bevy of young talent, and the Jackets have been reportedly interested in 23-year-old defenceman Ryan McDonagh and 21-year-old forward Chris Kreider, who had a stellar postseason (five goals) despite never playing a regular season game. Without an injection of offence, the Blueshirts – a defensive team to begin with — are expected to score even fewer goals as they await 41-goal sniper Marian Gaborik’s recovery from shoulder surgery.
What could be a deal-breaker: Yes, the Rangers need scoring, but this is a team poised to be a contender for the next few years. Would it really be wise for them to part with future stars five, six years younger than Nash?
Why they could close the deal: The Flyers have the assets to land Nash. Howson reportedly expressed interest in young centremen Sean Couturier, 19, and/or Brayden Schenn, 20, and if Philly decided to mortgage its future on a gambit to win now, the notion of a power-play featuring both Claude Giroux and Nash is a scary one for goalies in the East. Factor in the club’s loss of Jaromir Jagr (Dallas Stars) and Matt Carle (Tampa Bay Lightning) to free agency, not to mention veteran Chris Pronger’s health, and suddenly Philly’s 2012-13 roster looks less potent than the one that steamrolled the Penguins in the spring. GM Paul Holmgren, too, whiffed on offers for Suter and Parise and could be looking to make a splash.
What could be a deal-breaker: No one foresees that the Flyers will deal away Schenn just weeks after they orchestrated a deal to bring his brother Luke in from Toronto. And the piece that the Flyers dealt to get the defenceman Schenn, James van Riemsdyk, was the player Philly was most ready to dangle. To lose JVR, 23, and Couturier in one off-season could hurt the team down the road, but with Jacob Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and Matt Read, this team is deeper upfront than most.
Why they could close the deal: Two words: Jordan Staal. Even the combination of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, arguably the two best talents on skates, couldn’t get Pittsburgh out of Round 1 this spring, and the trade, however shrewd, of Staal to Carolina means there might be some ice time available for another impact forward. Malkin’s chemistry with James Neal and Chris Kunitz is not to be tampered with, but Sid needs a running mate. Imagine the threat of Cosby and Nash, teammates on Vancouver 2010’s gold medal team, on the same line. Plus, Pittsburgh might be afraid that Nash in a Rangers or Flyers sweater would pose big problems.
What could be a deal-breaker: Two words: Paul Martin. That’s the pricy player the Pens would like to deal, but the Jackets, who drafted Ryan Murray second overall and traded for Jack Johnson, appear to be looking for forwards more than defencemen. Could Martin plus some picks and prospects be enough to land Nash? Doubtful.
San Jose Sharks
Why they could close the deal: The Sharks have a wealth of forwards. Though 23-year-old all-star Logan Couture is probably the player Howson would like in return, San Jose’s deep roster of scorers includes Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Martin Havlat, Joe Pavelski, Ryan Clowe and Michal Handzus.
What could be a deal-breaker: Depends how insistent Howson is on Couture being part of the package. If, say, the Jackets were willing to accept a deal that packaged 29-year-old Clowe – a powerful, 225-pound left winger cable of scoring 20 to 25 goals – with some future interests, we could see Nash remain in the West, and the Sharks improve on last year’s seventh-place finish.
Which team will Rick Nash be playing for in 2012-13?