It really seems unfathomable that a guy like Rick Nash would eventually become available on the trade market, but this is the story that has dropped today and now we can all play with the different scenarios that turn in the hamster wheel we call our brain.
Let's consider the surface facts about Nash, before we get a little too crazy with who and what could possibly transpire. Nash, 27, has scored 40+ goals twice in his nine seasons in the NHL, he's been to the playoffs once and played four games in his one series and will come with a $7.8 million cap hit for six seasons after this season has finished. Nash also has a no-movement clause, which means that he will have to waive that clause and accept the deal he is eventually (if at all) moved, so he gets his choice of team to play for.
Now, since Nash has his choice of team to play for, we can only speculate what he would be looking for in a new uniform, be it close to home (Brampton, ON), a perennial playoff contender, former international team teammates, a new rebuild where he could be front and centre again... it's hard to say what's going on in his mind. I would have to imagine that he would want to win really bad, since he really hasn't been able to do that in Columbus.
Also, it will have to be considered that the Blue Jackets will also have to find a deal that is well-suited to their needs, which is a fresh rebuild. A tweet this morning from Darren Dreger from TSN suggests that it will be young players that will be front and centre in trade demands from Columbus and likely some pretty high draft picks. The price will be steep, but with a potential 50-goal scorer and an international level winner, it could certainly be worth it.
Well, let's look at the immediate favourites, as per the rumour mill and ask some of the pertinent questions. The two teams that have come up as big favourites for Nash are Los Angeles, New York and Toronto, as they have been rumoured to make some big pushes.
Would Nash want to play in Los Angeles? The Kings are in the playoff picture as we speak, they have quality talent to surround him with in Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick (just to name a few) and they are committed to putting a winning team together. That should be good enough to entice Nash to say yes to a trade, despite being on the opposite coast. What could the Kings offer Columbus? The going rumour in the mill is that the Kings will offer up Jack Johnson in a package going the other way, which may have to include Jonathan Bernier and some draft picks, to which the Kings do have their 2012 1st round pick in house. I think the Kings could fit something in for making that push today and down the road. Could the Kings fit Nash into their budget? If Johnson was to go the other way, I would say yes. According to CapGeek, they would be pretty close for the rest of the season and then there could be some creative movement in the off-season to accommodate the long-term contract, but it's certainly possible. How likely does a move to Los Angeles seem? It's in the realm of possibility, especially if the Jackets were to get Johnson and Bernier, starting the build from the back end. Getting a quality goalie would be fairly clutch for Columbus.
Would Nash want to play in New York? All signs would say yes. They are among the league's elite this season, they play a very gritty style of play with speed and have playmakers to suit the needs of a superstar like Nash. What could the Rangers offer Columbus? This would be a good time to explore movement of a kid like Chris Kreider, who is far and away the Rangers' most prized prospect. The Rangers don't have a great deal of top end talent in the back end, besides some of the young blueliners that are already on the team, nor do they have the goaltending prospects of a Los Angeles or Vancouver to make it really interesting. Could the Rangers fit Nash into their budget? Not without some moving cap space the other way. The Rangers do have quite a bit of room, according to CapGeek, but with Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Marc Staal and Henrik Lundqvist already on board for big money, there is going to be some top heavy lines out there for New York. How likely does a move to New York seem? We all know the Rangers' affinity for big name players and spending a lot of money, not to mention moving money around so they can spend more money. I would say that the Rangers are not necessarily a favourite, just because they may not have as much to offer than other teams.
Would Nash want to play in Toronto? Well, it's about as close to home as he can get, so that's got to be a big selling point. The Leafs are finally in the playoff race, as a team that is on the move, making good decisions and building well around some key players. Homesickness would be the biggest key in this decision, as I think he could find better teams to play for today. What could the Leafs offer Columbus? The Leafs are building a good base of prospects that could have some value to other teams, like Joe Colborne, Nazem Kadri, Keith Aulie and Luke Schenn, but no real good goaltending prospects, which the Leafs haven't showcased already. The Leafs do have draft picks again, but mortgaging more 1st round picks for a star player, as successful as it looks now, looks a tad harsh from the outside, but certainly possible. Could the Leafs fit Nash into their budget? I think if there is a good roster player going the other way, like a Schenn, this should be no problem. The Leafs are playing with some cap space, but this would likely be the only real deal that Toronto would make around the deadline. How likely does a move to Toronto seem? It seems like this would be a move that Brian Burke would be hard-pressed not to make, just to have a top quality player like Nash on his team is quite alluring and he has a knack for kicking the tires of the best players available. I don't know if Toronto has enough to give up though, but they could dress up a deal with more quality picks to make up for a lack of goaltending.
As of right now, I think the Kings are my immediate favourite of the big three, Bernier would be a great player to pick up, especially with Steve Mason being hung out to dry as the goat of the team. A top end goaltending prospect in return, plus going to a team with some real potential, it has the makings of a good deal. Other teams that may have some goaltending available to move, like Vancouver, may struggle with the salary cap and the long-term outlook of Nash, but it isn't like they wouldn't ask what Columbus would be interested in.