Why teams in the Rick Nash Derby actually don’t need Rick Nash

Puck Daddy

In the lifecycle of coveting thy neighbor's superstar player, we've now entered the "second thoughts" phase with Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Remember the initial euphoria a whopping three days ago? When every fan of every team was reconfiguring their Bobby Ryan trade proposals from last year for what the Jackets would want for Nash? How everyone was salivating over a 40-goal power forward, finally liberated from Columbus to star in the city of his choosing?

Well, now the narrative's reached the point of doubt. About Nash's projections as a star player. About the cost of acquiring him, in both talent exported and money against the salary cap.

Suddenly, we've gone from appetite for a Rick Nash trade to anxiety over a Rick Nash trade.

On Thursday, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch wrote that "Boston, Los Angeles, the Rangers, San Jose, Toronto and Vancouver are believed to be on the approved list for Nash." Naturally, this led to digital ink being spilled about why those teams would want Nash … and why they'd be wary about trading for him.

New York Rangers

The Rangers are viewed as the front-runner for Nash by some, because they have young assets to move and, frankly, could use another top line scorer with some size.

But Larry Brooks of the New York Post brings up to essential arguments to consider when match-making Nash to the Blueshirts:

1. Had he been a free agent last summer, would the Rangers have committed $7.8 million against the cap for him through 2018? The answer is likely "no," because (a) he's not worth that investment and (b) he didn't fit the needs of the team in the way that Brad Richards has.

2. Bringing in Nash now would hinder the Rangers' ability to keep their core together in the next three years and invest in other, somewhat more tantalizing players down the line. From Brooks, the Rangers shouldn't count on a CBA salary rollback helping them with Nash:

This means that $7.8 million would remain $7.8 million. This means that acquiring Nash would effectively shut the door on the Rangers being able to bid on Ryan Suter or Zach Parise if either hits the open market this summer. This means that the Rangers would be out of the picture if and when Shea Weber becomes available.

This means that the Blueshirts would be out when Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Jordan Staal could become unrestricted free agents in 2013 and thus, might be available leading up to next season's deadline when the Rangers and their needs will be much easier to define.

As Brooks said, the Rangers need to consider "the cost of the contract and the pure commitment in cap space over the next seven years." Bringing on Nash isn't just adding to an ingredient; in some ways, it fundamentally changes the recipe.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Nash has opened the door to the "local boy comes home" narrative with the Leafs, which have been a rumored destination for years.

In theory, he's an elite scorer that helps elevate Toronto into an annual, serious contender in the Eastern Conference. But Mirtle believes acquiring Rick Nash isn't how you build a sustainable contender in Toronto:

Nash? He's the type of player a contender should be chasing down as its final puzzle piece for a Cup run.

The Leafs would likely be much better served by adding an elite, $7-million player on the blueline, like a Ryan Suter, who can take some of the defensive responsibilities away from Phaneuf and bump everyone else down one spot.  Add that, add a goalie who can stop more than 91 per cent of the pucks he faces, and this is a far stronger team.

Mirtle also mentions, via Neil Greenberg, that Nash could be past his expiration date for peak performance, as "most goal-scoring wingers peak between ages 23 and 25, and then the decline begins to accelerate after age 26."

Los Angeles Kings

Another contender for Nash, and one that has the kind of blue-chip goalie prospect (Jonathan Bernier) you'd expect GM Scott Howson to salivate over in a Nash deal.

For the Kings, who would be much improved with Nash's offense added to whatever the hell it is they're playing these days that mislabeled as "offense," the issue comes down to cost. Bobby Scribe of Surly and Scribe has a price in mind:

Now, if Lombardi can pull off Rick Nash for Dustin Brown, Andrei Loktionov (which would make Quisp very sad) and a 2nd, fine. Substitute Loktionov for Voynov, fine. I would be sad to see each of those players go, but that's a good hockey deal. Nash is better than Brown, will score more goals and the fact he is in his prime is worth one of our younger players to win now. That is as far as I would take it. Of course, salary would have to go the other way of course, likely Penner. Anything more and Columbus can go f--k itself…respectfully of course.

You'll notice two names missing from the equation that have been mentioned elsewhere: Jonathan Bernier and Jack Johnson. Scribe sees Johnson improving each season, to the point where he might be untouchable. As for Bernier:

As much as Quick has been our MVP,  I am not presumptuous enough to say Quick is better than Bernier and Quick is this team's number 1 in the long term. How many examples have you seen of goalies playing out of their mind one season and falling on their faces another?

Rhymes with "Pleve Plason."

San Jose Sharks

Nash would give the Sharks what they hoped to have gotten from Dany Heatley: Lethal scoring on the wing, and maybe even a player that shows up in the championship round!

Ah, but the cost … from James Brady of SB Nation Bay Area:

Nash will cost an awful lot to acquire in a trade, or at least he should. It's unclear how much Nash actually wants out of Columbus in the end, if at all. You don't have a player demanding to be traded, you have a team who has voluntarily placed him on the trade block. As noted by Fear The Fin, trade talks likely have to start with a guy like Joe Pavelski or Logan Couture.

And the prospects of losing either of those players really sucks, for the team and the fans. For the latter, look at how hard it was to see Devin Setoguchi go, even though the Sharks were acquiring a player they sorely needed. For the former, Couture is one of the most exciting young player, while Pavelski is becoming the face of the team. Pavelski also has comparable stats to Nash and comes at half the price. It's not impossible to justify those kinds of players, but it's still difficult.

Which is to say that the Sharks do have some of the assets it'll take to get Nash.

Vancouver Canucks

Rick Nash as the high-scoring power forward that can cause matchup problems for opposing defenses that manhandle the Sedins? Well that seems like something the Canucks might be interested in.

Ah, well, there's the matter of his contract. Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province explains why the Canucks should go down that road on a team where cap hits have been consistently and intentionally manageable:

Now, try to fit in Nash's $7.8 million in that group. Go ahead. The Canucks, moreover, are already up against the cap so they'd have to move $7.8 million in salary to make this work. That would mean moving one big ticket — and Keith Ballard's $4.2 million does stick out there — and two smaller ones in addition to Schneider.

The problem there, of course, is the Blue Jackets are on a rebuild and they're not exactly in the market for an average 29-year-old blueliner who's get three years left at $4.2 million per. To make that deal, the Canucks would have to strip-mine their organization of their most valuable young assets — Schneider, Hodgson, Tanev, a first-round pick — and throw in a roster player all for a player who's averaged 31 goals and 61 points a season over his eight-year NHL career.

Sorry, no matter how you look at it, it's trying to pound a fencepost into a pinhole. This isn't a fit for the Canucks.

Oh well. Moving across the continent …

Boston Bruins

Andrew Ference on WEEI this morning said that moving a player like Nash "is easier said than done" … but he does like hearing Nash picked Boston as one of his teams.

But Joe Haggerty of CSN New England says that Nash isn't what the Bruins need:

The B's would need to send Tuukka Rask, Dougie Hamilton and top forward prospect like Ryan Spooner/Jared Knight if the Blue Jackets didn't just straight out demand David Krejci. That's the kind of deal that would change the face of the B's franchise and ultimately would alter the chemistry of a team that proved their Stanley Cup worthiness last year.

Haggs notes that Nash would be an upgrade over Nathan Horton, and that if a center is involved in the deal then Tyler Seguin could slide to his natural spot. However:

But Nash also has six years at a $7.8 million cap hit on his current contract and would immediately become Boston's highest-paid player on a team that finally achieved salary cap comfort this year. He'd effectively blow up the salary structure Boston has in place and hand the Bruins a player making more money — and arguably be handed more clout — than Boston's captain, Zdeno Chara. In an ideal world things like that wouldn't matter, but in the world of pro sports that could become an issue where salary amount is a competition among players just like everything else.

The initial blast of euphoria when Nash was made available has yielded to this kind of financial reality. His contract made sense as a franchise player for the Blue Jackets. But the teams for which he's limited his trade options don't necessarily require or have the structure for that kind of contract.

Which makes the return for Nash, from a salary cap perspective, really intriguing for Columbus.

Where do you see Nash going, and will it be before the deadline?

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