Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 07/19/10 at 05:53 PM ET
In a summer filled with a little bit of drama, a little bit of mystery, and not much action here in Carolina, Riley Nash has put an end to some of the mystery. Today, he signed a three-year entry level contract with the Hurricanes, deciding to forgo his senior year at Cornell.
The rookie contract will pay him $1.85M spread over three seasons at the NHL level and also features a signing bonus of $262,500. At the AHL level, Nash would make $65k in all three seasons of the two-way deal. Details of the signing are here.
The talk around Raleigh has been that both Nash and the 2010 first round pick Jeff Skinner could make the big team’s roster. Since Matt Cullen was traded away at the trading deadline and Rod Brind’Amour retired, the Canes have a sudden lack of depth down the middle. This will give Nash, Skinner and a bunch of the Checkers an opportunity right away.
I’d say that most Canes fans are happy about this development, this will probably upset some people in Ithaca. And Edmonton.
Nash always told the Oilers, who drafted him in the first round of the 2007 Entry Draft (21st overall), that he wanted to get his education before turning pro. He knew that they had depth at center and that his chances of making the big club were slim and none. He told them that he never wanted to play in the minor professional leagues, even at the AHL level. He would later say things like “with the economy the way it is, I feel like it’s really important to get my Cornell degree”. All he was really saying all along was “Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t want to play for that organization”.
This saga seemed a little too familiar to Canes fans, who watched Jack Johnson pretend to be interested in “winning a national championship” when he was really just not interested in playing for Carolina. Even in that scenario, Jim Rutherford was able to make lemonade from lemons when he dealt the rights to the unhappy Johnson for Tim Gleason. That deal also included a salary dump in getting rid of Oleg Tverdovsky. Carolina also got Eric Belanger out of that, but he never worked out here.
When Nash was acquired on draft day, Canes fans were excited about the potential in this kid. They were excited to have another former first round pick shrewdly acquired for peanuts. We were a little bit wary of the situation, though. We knew that there was some uncertainty in a kid who repeatedly said that he wanted to stay in college. We knew that there was a risk that he wouldn’t sign and would re-enter the draft. We also knew that Ron Francis was driving the bus and that he wouldn’t steer the organization into a ravine. This was his project, and we knew that he wouldn’t go that far into it without some indication that the kid would consider signing.
Almost immediately after the trade, Nash started to change his song just a little bit. It was no longer “I’m definitely going to go back to school”. Now it was “We’ll see how the summer goes”. He had a good showing at the prospects’ camp two weeks ago and told everyone that a decision was imminent. Ron Francis was probably doing a really good sales job while the coach back in Ithaca could only sit by. There’s nothing he could have done to make Nash stay. He can finish that degree whenever he wants.
Some Oiler fans were already upset that they gave up on Nash too soon. Others were tired of being jerked around. They could see what was happening and they were content to get anything at all out of the deal. What they got was a second round pick, which they used to draft a defenseman. Still, some Oilers fans are probably feeling like they’ve been stabbed in the back. Or kicked in the nuts. Or at least slapped in the face. It’s a bit like having a girl tell you “I’m just not interested in having a serious relationship with anybody right now. It’s not you; it’s me” and then find out that she got engaged two months later.
There’s still a lot of summer left, and a lot of things could happen, but there’s a good chance that we’ll be seeing plenty of #23 this season.
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David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.