Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wrote in his latest 31 Thoughts column that it wouldn’t be a surprise if Nash, a pending unrestricted free agent, was dealt prior to the Feb. 26 NHL Trade Deadline and signed back with the Rangers for the 2018-19 campaign. Despite this, plus the fact this is a pure rental player situation, the asking price for the two-time Olympic gold medallist could be steep.
The 33-year-old has a $7.8-million cap hit (roughly $2.4 million in remaining actual dollars owed), which could be a stumbling block for certain teams involved in trade talks—as could Nash’s list itself. Nash submitted a list of 12 teams to which he would accept a trade. That means there are 18 teams to which he would not agree to be dealt unless he waived his modified no-trade clause.
“One of the things that people are talking about is even if a team isn’t on that list, if they come up and say, ‘You know what? We’d be really interested in acquiring Rick Nash,’ and they make an offer that’s competitive or one that the Rangers think is very good, it’ll be no surprise if the Rangers go back to Nash and his agent, Joe Resnick, and say, ‘You know what? Would you consider this team as a possibility?’” Friedman added during a recent Hockey Central Tonight appearance.
“So, I do think the net could be even wider than what he initially has in that group. I think there’s a ton of interest. …I don’t think it’s necessarily going to be left to just the initial teams that were on his list. I wouldn’t be surprised if some others still try.”
It’s unclear which, if any, of the teams below are among the 12 clubs on Nash’s list, but, since interest is widespread, here are 10 potential landing spots for Nash.
Rick Nashville, anyone?
Any contending team interested in Nash will likely have to be willing to part ways with a first-round pick. The Predators selected highly touted Eeli Tolvanen with the 30th-overall pick in 2017 so they know as well as any team that there can be tremendous value with a late first-rounder. The last time GM David Poile traded a first-rounder was when he acquired Paul Gaustad in 2012.
Asking Mike Fisher to come out of retirement and join the team was a sign Poile trusts the Preds to go on another lengthy playoff run and Nash would undoubtedly strengthen an already impressive lineup. Nashville is a top three team in the West and a bona fide Cup contender with plenty of cap space to accommodate Nash.
Jim Rutherford is no stranger to trading high draft picks for potentially impactful players. In 2015, he spent a first-round pick to get David Perron from the Oilers and used a second-round pick as part of a package to acquire Daniel Winnik. He spent a third-rounder to get Justin Schultz at the deadline in 2016, a second-rounder to rent Ron Hainsey last year and then spent a first-rounder on pending UFA Ryan Reaves in the summer (albeit they got a second-rounder back in that deal).
Would Rutherford be willing to spend another first or second plus another piece to add Nash’s name to an impressive list of forwards he has in Pittsburgh? The Pens are streaking, catching up to Washington for top spot in the Metropolitan Division and eyeing a third consecutive Stanley Cup victory, something no team has done since the Islanders dynasty of the early 1980s.
“Don’t be surprised if they start shopping for a top-six forward.”
That’s what Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos said during this past Saturday’s Headlines segment on Hockey Night in Canada.
The Jets have plenty of skilled big men so Nash would fit in well.
“In a perfect world, they’d still like to maybe find someone on the left side that can go in there with [Mark] Scheifele and [Blake] Wheeler,” Kypreos added. “Maybe, just maybe, a guy like Rick Nash would be of interest. I don’t know whether or not that would fit in with where he is in his list of teams that he’d want to go to. But that’s the type of guy I think that Winnipeg would be looking at.”
Nash played 678 total games with the Blue Jackets but only four of those were in the playoffs. The Blue Jackets are fighting to maintain a wild card spot so they haven’t necessarily positioned themselves to be buyers but they are interested in adding forward depth. Nash even spends his summers in Columbus so this would be a somewhat natural return for the 2002 first-overall pick.
With Nash being a rental and the Rangers falling further out of the playoff race each day, trading Nash to a division rival shouldn’t be much of a deterrent, in theory at least, compared to if Nash had term remaining on his current deal.
The Stars were sellers last year, but they look like a playoff team once again. Adding Nash would put a strain on the cap but it could be worth it. Imagine how dominant Nash and Jamie Benn could be down low, cycling the puck in the offensive zone.
GM Jim Nill has done a great job retooling his roster, yet they’ve loaded up their top line with Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov playing together. Adding Nash into the fold would allow coach Ken Hitchcock to split up that top line and spread the wealth. The Stars are deep at centre but have a dearth of scoring wingers. Hitchcock coached Nash for four years in Columbus and is a big fan of the forward.
Doug Armstrong doesn’t have a first-rounder in 2018 to work with but it’s the only pick they’re missing for the next three years. The Blues have been one of the teams linked to Nash, although if Gorton calls up Armstrong and starts mentioning names like Tage Thompson, Ivan Barbashev, Klim Kostin or Jordan Kyrou, he’ll hear the sound of a dial tone rather quickly.
Nash’s goals per game rate hasn’t been impressive in the past three seasons compared to the first 12 years of his career, but his numbers don’t tell the full story of how he can impact a game. While his advanced metrics are nothing to write home about this season—you could say that about most Rangers players to be honest—Nash is a well-above-average defensive player and is averaging 1:47 of shorthanded ice-time per game.
Tom Wilson, he of seven goals and 127 PIMs in 49 games this season, has been playing on the top line with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Nash would give the Caps a new layer of depth in their top nine and potentially be that piece that finally sees them get out of the second round of the playoffs.
Flames president Brian Burke was a guest on Prime Time Sports Wednesday night where he said his team is looking to add “a winger who can score.” Nash certainly fits that bill seeing as only two players (Alex Ovechkin and Jarome Iginla) have more goals than Nash’s 432 since he entered the league in 2002.
However, Burke added a caveat to that.
“We don’t have a lot of picks,” he said. “We’re not picking until [the third round of the 2018 draft], so we can’t use the deadline to pick up a rental player with a relatively high pick. We’re not going into  picks … unless it’s an extraordinary circumstance.”
The Flames do have a surplus of defencemen they could potentially move if they so desired.
The Sharks aren’t the Western Conference powerhouse they once were and rank 18th in the NHL in goals per game. Nash is friends with Joe Thornton, playing with him on Team Canada and on HC Davos in the Swiss league during the past two NHL lockouts. Nash’s 16 goals this season would rank second on the Sharks behind Logan Couture’s 22.
OK, this one is a stretch, but Garth Snow is one of the boldest GMs in the NHL. The Islanders have two firsts and two seconds in 2018 thanks to the Travis Hamonic deal they made with the Flames. Snow has said he doesn’t plan on trading high draft picks ahead of the deadline, but sometimes plans change.
We still don’t know the future of John Tavares but if Snow thinks this might be the last run at a Cup with Tavares as captain, why not be a little aggressive at the deadline? On the flip side, if he thinks they might lose Johnny T in free agency then those high draft picks can be leveraged to perhaps pull off a notable trade in the summer to make up for losing Tavares—if he tests the open market and walks.