I will rank the suitors based on rumored interest and those who would appear to be in a position to provide the type of return Howson would appear to seek.
So, here are my rankings of the potential Rick Nash suitors:
1) San Jose Sharks – while it was reported that the New York Rangers and the Blue Jackets were engaged in intense trade discussions for Rick Nash at the NHL’s trade deadline – reports ranged from an offer of four of the Rangers NHL-ready, NHL-level young players and prospects as well as the their 1st round pick in the upcoming NHL Entry draft. However, it was believed that the San Jose Sharks actually came closest to a deal being consummated. It was believed that the Sharks offered Joe Pavelski, Jamie McGinn (who was subsequently traded to the Colorado Avalanche when the deal fell through), top prospect Taylor Doherty and the Sharks 1st pick in the NHL Entry draft, the 17th overall pick. The rumored sticking point was Howson’s desire to acquire rising young forward Logan Couture in the deal; however, it was believed that Couture was considered an untouchable.
Sharks GM Doug Wilson was quoted recently as stating that they’d consider “sweetening the deal” in order to acquire Nash, who was a teammate of the Sharks star player, Joe Thornton, for Team Canada in the Olympics and during the World Hockey Championships. The question is whether Wilson has softened his stance on Couture and if so whether that also results in offering far less in consideration for the deal to be consummated.
It has also been rumored that Sharks starting netminder Antti Niemi may be available in a trade offer for Nash, something particularly critical to Howson who desperately needs a starting goalie after three horrid seasons in net from Steve Mason, not to mention a now-depleted Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) market.
Potential trade scenarios: Pavelski, Niemi, Doherty and the Sharks 1st pick for Nash and a top defensive prospect or young player – i.e. John Moore – or Couture, Doherty and the Sharks 1st pick for Nash.
2) New York Rangers – in February, speculation ran rampant as to what was offered and counter-offered between the Rangers and the Blue Jackets, but it was believed to have included the following Rangers players and prospects: Derek Stepan, Michael Del Zotto, Christian Thomas, Chris Kreider, Tim Erixon, TJ Miller, Brandon Dubinsky and the Rangers’ 1st pick in the upcoming NHL Entry draft to something far less than that, depending on which camp (organization) you chose to believe.
Recently, it was believed that Dubinsky could be ‘in play’ for any trade discussions. Dubinsky is considered a ‘glue guy’ – someone with great leadership characteristics, something the Blue Jackets desperately needs and a player Scott Howson is believed to covet. Other names rumored to be considered in the Nash trade discussions are Artem Anisimov, Del Zotto, Erixon and Stepan.
Potential trade scenario: Dubinsky, Del Zotto, Erixon and Anisimov or the Rangers 1st pick in the draft (in lieu of one of the fore-mentioned players) for Nash. It is widely believed that Kreider’s playoff performance solidified his status as an untouchable in any trade discussions, to the extent that some sources have surmised that the Rangers wouldn’t now trade Kreider for Nash, straight up.
As mentioned in my previous article, don’t forget the Craig Patrick factor.
3) Philadelphia Flyers – after the results of last summer’s disastrous trade of former Flyers sniper Jeff Carter for Jakub Voracek and the Blue Jackets 1st and 3rd round picks, one of which turned out to be rookie stalwart Sean Couturier, not to mention Carter’s reluctance to come to Columbus, you’d think Scott Howson would avoid any trade discussions with Flyers GM Paul Holmgren like the plague. However, if Holmgren would agree to provide Howson with the necessary young guns that would allow Howson to recoup young assets for Nash and in return provide Holmgren with a proven scoring machine to an already prolific array of goal-scorers in Claude Giroux, Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell and ageless phenom Jaromir Jagr.
However, the Flyers needs are primarily on the defensive end as Flyers captain and elite defenseman Chris Pronger missed all of last season with post-concussion symptoms, to the extent that his future in the NHL is in doubt. Also, it was the Flyers defense, or lack thereof, that plagued them during this past season’s Stanley Cup playoffs.
But perhaps the most intriguing rumor regarding any trade speculation between both teams was that Flyers star young forward James Van Riemsdyk was reputed to have foregone hip surgery so as to avoid being considered in any trade discussions with the Blue Jackets. Both sides have patently denied any such claims but given the catastrophic results of the Carter trade, any such speculation is cause for alarm.
Potential trade scenario: Van Riemsdyk, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Carle, Couturier and the Flyers 1st pick for Rick Nash and possibly Fedor Tyutin as insurance if Pronger is unable to play again.
4) Ottawa Senators – my dark horse candidate. Per the Ottawa Sun, the Senators have apparently made a strong pitch for Rick Nash. Senators GM Bryan Murray is believed to have spoken to the Blue Jackets about acquiring Nash.
It’s believed that Murray is interested in Nash primarily due to the speculation that Sens team captain and face of the franchise, Daniel Alfredsson, may be retiring during the off-season or in the very near future and the Sens return to respectability from the previous season’s disasters has revitalizedMurray’s desire to make a statement throughout the Eastern Conference.
Ottawa has the luxury of two outstanding young goaltenders in Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner as well as some young forward stars who would allow Howson with a return upon which to build upon.
Where this could get extremely risky and potentially disastrous for the Blue Jackets is due to their historic struggles in drafting and worse yet, in development.
Adding Nash would ignite the Sens scoring proclivity, adding Nash to former Team Canadateammate Jason Spezza and possibly Alfredsson and possibly entice the Sens captain with the incentive for one more shot at Stanley Cup glory.
Possible scenario: Senators’ 2011 1st round pick Mika Zibanejad, wingers Bobby Butler or Nick Foligno, defenseman Patrick Wiercioch and either Bishop or Lehner or their 1st round pick in lieu of Wiercioch for Rick Nash.
5) TorontoMaple Leafs – the belief here is that Leafs GM Brian Burke covets Nash, who personifies the very type of big-bodied player that Burke is known for acquiring.
However, there are reasons this potential suitor seems unlikely. For one, the Maple Leafs’ problems are not as centered in forward line scoring as they finished 10th in the NHL in goals scored during the 2011-2012 regular season. Their issues are primarily centered around their issues in net (goaltending) and with their blueline as the Leafs surrendered the 2nd most goals allowed during the regular season.
Another reason, unless Burke’s desire for Nash is that great, is Burke has always consistently abhorred long-term contracts, and Nash’s contract still has six years remaining on it, with an annual salary cap hit of $7.8 million per season.
So, unless Burke goes against character – then there may be the reluctance to run the risk that occurred when Burke traded for Phil Kessel when he was a member of the Boston Bruins, giving up a 1st and 2nd round pick in 2010 – which resulted in the Bruins drafting Tyler Seguin 2nd overall in the 2010 NHL Entry draft and Jared Knight, a highly regarded prospect – as well as Dougie Hamilton, considered one of the top prospects in all of hockey, as their 1st round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry draft. Many observers believed Peter Chiarelli, the Bruins GM, got the better of that trade, quite easily – it’s likely that Burke will focus on building their offense via a draft-day trade with the hope of landing the 2nd and 5th overall picks vs. mortgaging the future, again, of the Maple Leafs.
Possible Scenario (if a trade offer is made): The Maple Leafs 1st pick – 5th overall – Luke Schenn, Nazem Kadri and goaltenders Ben Scrivens or James Reimer for Rick Nash.
6) Carolina Hurricanes – it’s believed that ‘Canes GM Jim Rutherford is primed to make a big splash in order to jump-start a team who has struggled since their 2006 Stanley Cup championship, having failed to qualify for the playoffs in four of their last five seasons.
It has been disclosed that the Hurricanes have made an offer to Scott Howson regarding Rick Nash, something that caught many observers by surprise, givenRutherford’s usual conservative tack/approach.
Where the probability of this happening appears to be doubtful, although stranger things have happened, is with the type of return the Blue Jackets could garner for Nash. While Rutherford has some fine prospects in his development system – Victor Rask, Zack Dalpe and particularly defenseman Ryan Murphy, it’s believed that it will take more than that to coerce Scott Howson to trade Nash toCarolina, particularly if rising young players such as Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk are considered off-limits.
However, what Rutherfordmay be willing to part with is a combination of young prospects and their backup goaltender, Justin Peters as well as their 1st pick in the NHL Entry draft, the 8th overall pick.
Possible Scenario: Brandon Sutter, Peters, Zac Dalpe, Jamie McBain and their 1st pick in the NHL Entry draft.
I will also offer the probability that a team, one not previously believed to either be on the list of approved teams for which Nash would waive his NMC for, as one who could absolutely blow Scott Howson away. That’s always a possibility.
But, in closing, I’d like to offer one other team to keep in mind: the Detroit Red Wings, particularly if premier UFAs such as Zach Parise and Ryan Suter opt to either return to their respective teams or if they sign with the Minnesota Wild, a team that is prepared to spare no expense to acquire either player, particularly Minnesota’s native son, Parise.
If that scenario occurs, Red Wings’ GM Ken Holland, long believed to be the NHL’s best GMs, could possibly offer a bevy of their top prospects – Brendan Smith, Tomas Tatar or Gustav Nyquist – young NHL players such as defenseman Jakub Kindl or forward Jan Mursak – and a slew of their 1st and/or 2nd round draft picks. Regarding the risk of acquiring prospects from the Red Wings, the risks would be far less given the organization’s impeccable track record of developing its players, often those selected in the later rounds of the draft.
Update: Word broke yesterday that Anaheim Ducks forward Bobby Ryan is once again being shopped around on the trading block. This is the worst thing that could happen to Scott Howson’s leverage in trading Rick Nash, particularly if he continues to wait it out with his believed outrageous demands. If this extends to July 1st, the start of the UFA signing period (assuming Parise and Suter opt as UFAs) Nash now becomes the 4th ‘prettiest girl at the dance’.