The Rick Nash saga has finally concluded. It took months for Columbus GM Scott Howson to find a deal he actually could agree to, accepting a deal from the New York Rangers (Darren Dreger). It's fitting that the Rangers are the team involved considering that they were believed to have offered the best deal for Nash before the 2011-12 trade deadline passed.
The Rangers will be sending Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first-round pick to the Blue Jackets in return for their star forward. The Blue Jackets are also giving the Rangers prospect Steven Delisle and a conditional third-round pick.
Things are about to change in a big way for Rick Nash. Gone are the days where he played relatively sheltered hockey in Columbus. The base in Columbus is passionate but it's clear that the local tabloids have nothing on the notoriously ruthless New York reporting.
Nash has spent each of his nine NHL season skating with the Blue Jackets in an atmosphere that could be described as being pretty casual. This all changes now that Nash has been involved in a large, multi-player deal that the Rangers are hoping is the final piece of their Stanley Cup puzzle. Rick Nash will be under immense pressure to make an immediate impact, especially since the Rangers will be without Marian Gaborik until December as he recovers from an injured shoulder.
In the end, Scott Howson accepted Dubinsky, Anisimov, Erixon and a first-round pick for Rick Nash. The final deal is well below the original offer we had heard New York offered to Howson prior to the trade deadline. As expected, the price kept dropping as Howson kept demanding more and more from potential suitors. Ultimately, one has to believe that Howson's actions forced Columbus to receive less for Nash than they would have had they completed a deal back during the 2011-12 season.
If Columbus received these four pieces for Nash you'd probably label the trade as a victory for New York. When you add in Delisle and a conditional pick, one has to wonder why Howson balked at significantly better offers only to emerge from the Nash trade without one of New York's top prospects.
Typically it takes several years before a winner can be named in a trade. In this deal the initial feeling is that Columbus gave up Nash for considerably less than we all expected. As is, New York appears to have received a top forward in his prime for a few pieces that aren't going to solve any of the problems in Columbus.
Brandon Dubinsky had a solid 2010-11 (24 goals, 30 assists) but took a big step back in 2011-12 (10 goals, 24 assists). Artem Anisimov saw a slight decline in form between 2010-11 (18 goals, 26 assists) and 2011-12 (16 goals, 20 assists). Tim Erixon is a player that has only skated in 18 NHL games. A first-round pick for the Rangers is a piece we really can't evaluate until after the pick has been used and the prospect has either panned out or fallen out of memory. These pieces were ones that the Rangers believed they could part with to add one of the game's best offensive weapons to their already impressive attack.
Columbus is most likely hoping that they can deploy Dubinsky as a top-6 forward with Anisimov as a potential top-6 or top-9 forward. They're probably hoping that Erixon, a first-round pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, eventually develops into a defenseman capable of skating in the team's top pairing. Finally, the Blue Jackets are hoping that their newly acquired first-round pick can be used to fill any number of potential holes with a prized talent. If all of these hopes pan out to fruition then we probably can chalk this up as a fair trade. Unfortunately, Columbus will need a lot to of hopes - some which might be long shots - to fall in place or this deal will emerge as being pretty lopsided.
We should all wait to evaluate this trade until Rick Nash proves that he can be the big player everyone assumes he can be. He excelled in Columbus but will he be able to excel on Broadway, with the weight of an expected championship sitting on his shoulders? Time will tell. Nash's ability to rise to the challenge will determine just how lopsided or level this deal was.
To be fair, Rick Nash wasn't the easiest guy to trade. Despite being just 28 and being one of the game's best scorers, Nash is weighed down by a massive contract he signed prior to the 2010-11 season. This eight-year, $62.4 million contract isn't one that most teams would be willing or able to take on. Until the deal expires after the 2017-18 season, Nash will carry an average salary cap hit of $7.8 million. Needless to say, it's not easy moving a guy with a contract that pays out $7.6-$8.2 million a year for the next six years.
Difficulties in dealing Nash aside, this was a critical deal for the Columbus Blue Jackets. They needed to get a huge return on Nash. They needed to land a mammoth return capable of not only filling Nash's void, but also returning their franchise to form after an extremely disappointing 2011-12 campaign. On paper it appears Columbus failed to capitalize on their best asset.
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