With less than 2 weeks to go until the NHL trade deadline (February 27); it was starting to seem like the lead up to the day itself was going to be a bust. That was until late last night and early this morning when reports started to surface that the Columbus Blue Jackets are open to the possibility of trading Rick Nash. Renaud Lavoie of RDS, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch and Bob McKenzie of TSN all reported that Nash is in fact available, however it is unclear which teams are prepared to offer the kind of package it will take to land the 27-year-old LW.
Without any inside information whatsoever, I’m going to try to identify the 6 teams that would be the most likely destinations for Rick Nash.
The first factor to consider: Rick Nash has a no-movement clause. Having played in only 4 career playoff games, Nash will without a doubt want to go to a playoff team with a good future, and preferably a good hockey market.
This eliminates Phoenix, Calgary, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Edmonton and Anaheim in the West; and Florida, Winnipeg, Montreal, Tampa Bay, NY Islanders, Buffalo and Carolina in the East.
Down from 29 teams to 15 teams
The second factor to consider: Rick Nash carries a cap hit of $7.8 million per season for the next 6 years. The team acquiring Rick Nash will need to have both short-term and long-term cap space, and it will need to be a team that is not averse to spending to the cap ceiling.
This eliminates: Vancouver (no cap space this year), Nashville (Suter/Weber), Chicago (long-term cap space), New Jersey (will try to sign Parise) and Ottawa (committed to their rebuild).
Division rivals Detroit and St. Louis can be eliminated as well. Even though there will likely be some kind of re-alignment in the future, I still don’t see Columbus wanting to trade Rick Nash within their division.
Now down to 8 teams
The final factor to consider: Columbus will require significant assets in return. Any team wanting to trade for Rick Nash will have to give up a young impact player, a few high-end prospects and a 1st round pick.
San Jose does not have a good pool of prospects, they won’t want to move any of their top 4 defensemen and Columbus would insist on Logan Couture being part of any deal with Rick Nash. They’re out.
Pittsburgh would be a serious contender for Rick Nash, but there is too much uncertainty surrounding Sidney Crosby. For that reason, it would not be smart for Ray Shero to give up the assets he would need to part with in order to land Nash.
And that brings me to the 6 teams that I feel are the most viable options for Rick Nash.
David Krejci and Tuukka Rask are roster players that would intrigue Columbus. The Bruins also have 2 blue chip prospects in Dougie Hamilton and Jordan Caron and a few other good ones in Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner. Remember that Boston is struggling right now, Nathan Horton is out indefinitely and Peter Chiarelli is not afraid to make bold moves around the deadline.
Los Angeles Kings
Between Jonathan Bernier, Slava Voynov, Andrei Loktionov and prospects Tyler Toffoli, Derek Forbort, Thomas Hickey, Linden Vey and Brandon Kozun; you would think that the Kings could put together some kind of a package that would intrigue the Blue Jackets. While it may not appear that LA has cap space to get a deal done, they have quite a few expiring contracts (Penner, Stoll, Mitchell) that could be thrown in to balance out the salaries.
New York Rangers
Its been well documented that the Rangers feel that they need a scoring winger for their top 6. Like the Kings, GM Glen Sather is fortunate to have a long list of young assets that would peak the interest of Columbus. That list includes: Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Del Zotto and prospects Chris Kreider, Christian Thomas, JT Miller, Tim Erixon and Dylan McIlrath.
In all my years following the NHL religiously, I have learned to never count out Paul Holmgren when it comes to big trades. They don’t need Rick Nash, but acquiring him could put them over the top. A deal between these 2 teams starts with Sergei Bobrovsky, that’s for sure. You have to think some combination of Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, James van Riemsdyk, Matt Read would be included as well; and you can throw in a D prospect too in either Erik Gustaffson or Marc-Andre Bourdon.
Toronto Maple Leafs
You don’t need a hockey insider to tell you that Brian Burke will be interested in acquiring Rick Nash. He is exactly the kind of guy that Burke wants in Toronto. He also finds himself in a position where he has the assets to acquire a player like Nash. Nazem Kadri, Joe Colborne and Keith Aulie are all NHL ready prospects. The Leafs also have a wealth of defensemen that would have an immediate impact in Columbus, such as Luke Schenn, Cody Franson and Carl Gunnarsson.
The Caps can make this work “cap-wise” in the short-term by trading away Alexander Semin or Mike Knuble and Jeff Schultz. They also have great young players in Marcus Johansson, Karl Alzner and John Carlson; future stars in Evgeni Kuznetsov, Dmitri Orlov and additional quality prospects in Cody Eakin and goaltender Braden Holtby. They certainly have the artillery to get a deal done for Rick Nash, the question is more about if George McPhee is prepared to drastically alter the team’s personnel. Out of the 6 candidates, I am most skeptical about Washington, but you never know!
About the Author
Written by Corey Krakower
I am the Director of NHL Content & Habs writer for ProSportsBlogging.com; I have spent 8 seasons behind the bench as a minor hockey coach; and I am the future GM of the Montreal Canadiens (according to my mom). I spend my days managing the Harrow Sports brand in my hometown of Montreal and I moonlight as a Hockey Advisor for Pi Athlete Management. Most importantly, I'll throw anyone under the bus for a laugh.