Rick Nash: Did Columbus Get Fleeced?
In what has to be the biggest trade of the summer, Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson finally parted ways with Rick Nash, sending the unhappy winger to the New York Rangers in return for forwards Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, defenseman Tim Erixon and a first round draft pick.
While Howson appears to have gotten a decent quantity in return for Nash, there appears to be a real lack of high-end quality headed to Columbus, while the Rangers get one of the NHL’s elite power forwards.
At 26-years of age, Dubinsky still has plenty of years left in the tank. His rugged style will be a welcome addition to the Columbus lineup, as will his potential leadership skills. He was one of New York’s most popular players until his numbers declined last season.
At 6’4” and 200 pounds, Anisimov has the size to be a very effective forward, but he is not known as a physical player. Through 244 career NHL games the Russian born Anisimov has registered 46 goals and 62 assists for a total of 108 points.
The player with the biggest upside is defenseman Tim Erixon. Originally drafted in the first round (23rd overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the Calgary Flames, Erixon was used sparingly by the Rangers last season seeing just 18 games of action where he assisted on two goals and earned a plus-minus rating of minus-2.
Despite his lack of points last season, Erixon is a highly regarded prospect who patterns his game after Detroit Red Wings legendary defenseman, Nik Lidstrom.
Given the strength of the New York Rangers team, the first round draft choice will likely be a bottom ten pick, which are risky at the best of times. That said, don’t forget, Columbus now has three first round draft choices in next years NHL Entry Draft which is thought to be extremely deep. Howson could hold onto all three or package them out in order to land a big fish, but it is far too early to speculate, isn’t it?
When you add it all up, the Blue Jackets got a decent, if not underwhelming return. That said, you have to figure Howson (who has spent months trying to find a good deal for Nash) kicked around every trade scenario out there before accepting the Rangers’ offer.
Nash’s no-trade clause, considerable cap hit of $7.8 million and subsequent limited list of teams which Nash was willing to play for made any deal involving Nash very tough to pull off. That said with all due respect to Howson, this deal looks to be decent, but certainly lacks sizzle if you are a Columbus fan.
Don’t forget, when the New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets were rumored to be talking about a deal for Nash in the early going the names that were being floated around were youngsters Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan and Dylan McIlrath. Rangers GM Glen Sather managed to hold on to all three of those prospects, which means he didn’t have to sell much of the future in order to strengthen his club for today.
Of course, the Rangers have a long list of top-end talent that never worked out which may be causing more than a few Rangers fans to be a little bit nervous about acquiring Nash. That said, for today anyways, the Rangers fans must be smiling as for the second straight summer they have landed the biggest name on the market.
When you look at the overall salaries being transferred between the two clubs the Rangers didn’t do too badly in the short term. It is the long term that On the Rangers will feel a little pain in terms of cap hit and, alternatively, the Blue Jackets will get some relief. On the bright side, Howson now has a ton of money to spend on free agents both now and for the foreseeable future, but with few players lining up to play in Columbus he may never get the chance to make a big signing.
Lets face it, when a player as loyal and skilled as Nash wants out of your organization few players will come knocking on your door. Perhaps another concern for Howson is the backlash he will undoubtedly get from the fans after trading a player of Nash’s popularity and the chance that more players will want out of what has quickly gone from a team with decent upside to start 2011-12 season to one that is in a downward spiral after trading it’s two biggest stars (Nash and Jeff Carter) in the span of one year.
In the end there was no way Howson could keep holding onto Nash and there was no chance he was going to wait until after next season began to deal Nash. Howson took several months to pull the trigger on this deal, he got what he could. In the end Howson had to deal Nash and it appears as if he had to somewhat settle for what Sather was offering.
At 28-years of age Nash, who stands 6’4” and weighs in at 219 pounds, looks to have plenty of hockey left in him, but there are more than a few skeptics out there that feel his best hockey has already been played. Nash, who has hit the 30-goal mark seven times and won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Award as the NHL’s top scorer in 2004, has not scored 70+ points since the 2008-09 season.
While he has always played for a defensively challenged team in the anonymity of Columbus, Nash’s career minus-71 rating is cause for concern. Sure, Nash is talented up front, but he will have to bring his defensive game up a notch if he wants to stay in New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella’s good books.
Then again, when you consider how much Nash has accomplished as a member of Team Canada- a gold medal at the 2007 World Championships and 2010 Olympics, as well as a silver medal at the 2002 World Junior Championships, 2005 World Championships and 2008 World Championships, there is reason to believe that Nash can elevate his game.
Early speculation has Nash playing on the Rangers top line with Brad Richards as his centre. With all due respect to the players that centered Nash in the past, none of them brought the elite combination of leadership and skills that Richards has, which should help Nash’s numbers.
All things considered Nash, a five time All Star, should be able to return to the 40-goal plateau this season, with a shot to hit the 80-point mark for the first time in his NHL career. If he does that, the Rangers will be a force to deal with in the Eastern Conference and another playoff birth would seem like a slam dunk.
With the addition of Nash and his massive $7.8 million cap hit the Rangers now have a total of $56,808,334 committed to 20 players for the 2012-13 season. Based on a $70,200,000 Salary Cap, that leaves the Rangers with just over $13 million with which to make additional signings and/or use at the trade deadline to acquire more talent.
With $7.8 million invested in Nash, $6,666,667 invested in Richards and $7.5 million invested in Marian Gaborik (combined $21,967,000), New York could potentially ice one of the, if not the highest paid first lines in NHL history.
Say what you will about Glen Sather, he sure has a knack for the big deal (landing Brad Richards as a free agent last summer) and it doesn’t get much bigger than landing Rick Nash.
Did Columbus get fleeced? I wouldn’t say fleeced, Howson got a “decent” deal, but as the saying goes, the team that gets the best player in the deal typically wins the trade and in this case the best player in this trade is Rick Nash, which means New York is the big winner until one of the three players or the draft choice Howson landed proves otherwise.
Until next time,