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Report: Rick Nash on the trading block; are the Rangers ready to pounce?

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What is certain about the trade deadline is that the Columbus Blue Jackets will be open for business. The uncertainty is in the magnitude of their moves: Impending free agents, like Sammy Paulsson? Cancerous mistakes like Jeff Carter?

Or captain, star and face of the franchise Rick Nash …

Renaud Lavoie of RDS reported on Monday that an NHL general manager confirmed to him Nash is in play and has been offered around to some teams -- news that was confirmed by a second source.

This comes one week after John Shannon of Sportsnet reported:

I have received a couple of calls from friends of Nash, who claim that Rick is very unhappy with the way the franchise is going and realizes it will take five more years to rebuild, again. Nash is now telling people close to him that he would entertain being moved, but still will not be the one who asks for a trade.

Always one who didn't aspire to play in a big market with big pressure, it appears Nash now realizes that he might have to step into the spotlight in order to win. It is a very tough situation for a very classy player.

Columbus GM Scott Howson declined comment to Shannon ("John, I am not commenting on any rumours between now and deadline."); he did the same on Monday night when Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch asked for comment on the RDS report.

If Nash is available, and amenable to being traded to a large market, could the New York Rangers be the destination?

Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News offered this take, noting that a Rangers scout watched the Wild and Blue Jackets this week:

The Ranger scout's presence fuels a fire that started burning in January. A Columbus scout has attended at least two of the Rangers' past four home games, and Saturday the Blue Jackets sent three people, including GM Scott Howson, to the Rangers-Flyers game in Philadelphia.

NHL.com reported that Howson met with Flyers GM Paul Holmgren, but the Ottawa Sun's report speculated that Columbus "may demand" Brandon Dubinsky, prospect Chris Kreider and a No. 1 pick for Nash.

Dubinsky has slumped this season, with 24 points in 51 games. But he's a vital piece for the best team in the East at the moment; why mess with chemistry?

Well, because GM Glen Sather can add an elite goal scorer on Brad Richards' wing, and give Nash the elite playmaking center he's never had. Not just this season, but through 2018 when Nash's contract runs its course. How can they afford his cap hit of $7.8 million? Take Dubinsky's $4.2 million off the books and utilize the $15 million in cap space they're projected to have in 2012-13 to fill in the blanks.

But if Nash is available, the Rangers won't be alone in the bidding. The Washington Capitals had two scouts at the Jackets/Ducks game on Sunday, as did Dallas, Detroit and Pittsburgh. Portzline reports that Columbus assistant GM Chris MacFarland and pro scout Pete Dineen watched the Capitals and Sharks on Monday night in D.C.

(The Capitals, remember, have a treasure trove of young talent to move and Alex Semin's $6.7 million leaving their cap next summer.)

Nash has said repeatedly he wouldn't ask for a trade; is it time for the Jackets to ask him? Andy Newman of The Cannon writes:

The bottom line on any Nash rumors or potential deals: It's about time this team makes some smart business decisions. I believe re-signing Prospal was the first step. Identifying him as a key player that you want around young players was essential for Scott Howson to get the right pieces in place.

There will always be suitors for Rick Nash, and if a trade makes the most sense for the Columbus Blue Jackets, then they should take it. But that won't necessarily be easy to come by, and I don't think it's what Nash or the Jackets are looking for in this situation.

Are the Jackets preparing to finally take the leap?

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