If you follow this site at all closely, you know that I’m not particularly big on the rumor side of things. Trade speculation is fun and all, but for me personally, that's not my "wheel house". There are plenty of sites - and people - who are “good” (if we can use that term) at throwing out intriguing hypothetical scenarios, to say nothing of the legitimate “insiders” who actually speak to scouts and GM’s on a daily basis to extract any kernel of information they can in an effort to see who might indeed be “available”.
But one thing is clear, there will be at least one big “fish” out there between now and the deadline (or whenever he gets dealt, whichever comes first) and that’s Rick Nash in Columbus. How do we know this? Well, if several veteran reporters are correct in suggesting Nash has already given the Jackets a very short list of teams he would be willing to go to, that means that the veteran—though still a very much in his prime forward—is at the very least willing to accept a move and likely seeking one.
Is he still worth a ton? I can’t say. Based on a purely superficial statistical evaluation, he is having a poor season (everyone is, in Columbus) by his high standards. But surely it's not a big leap of faith to suggest that, at 27, Nash has some excellent and offensively productive years ahead of him in the league, especially if he lands in a market and with a team that will complement his skills by surrounding him with other top-rank players.
Just about everything that we hear about Nash is that he still has a high compete level, but other than playing for Canada at the Olympics/World Championships, we don’t exactly have a large sample size of big-time games or playoff series to go by. He has played in a total of one NHL playoff series, if I’m not mistaken. But we know he has marvelous talent, and we also know that many players do in fact need a change of scenery to rejuvenate themselves—and their games. I don’t doubt the guy genuinely wanted to stay for a long time in Columbus when he signed his most recent big-dollar contract. But once again, the organization has not exactly built a team to make him excited in terms of future prospects, so, like many before him, happily or not, it looks like leaving is in fact his best option.
Where does he go? You’d think (without my knowing all the ins and outs of the cap and whether these teams would have - or could create - the space to welcome him comfortably) Detroit, L.A., San Jose, Philadelphia, the Bruins, Rangers and Chicago could, in theory, vie for his services.
And yes, the Leafs could be very interested as well.
I mention the above teams because each has a legitimate claim to possible playoff success this year and perhaps for the next few seasons. Nash would seemingly make each of those teams better over the next three or four seasons, assuming he stays healthy (and nowadays, that’s a big if for any player) and if they don’t give up too much of their present or future to get him. (I include the Bruins because sometimes, a Cup-defending team needs a jolt to spruce up their intensity before they begin their “defense” of the Cup in earnest, and before they become last year’s news…)
As for the Leafs, I’m trying to determine what would be a price Burke would consider paying. We all understand that he is unlikely to be lured by a short-term playoff run unless he honestly thought they could win their Conference come playoff time, and I doubt he sees that in the cards this spring. So any deal would have to help the team now and for the next few years—without gutting the re-build by giving up important present or future roster pieces.
I posted a while back on what, if I was Bob Murray, the GM in Anaheim, I would absolutely insist on in a package if the Leafs approached me about Bobby Ryan or Gettzlaf.
Today, I’m turning it around: what should Burke be willing to give up for a difference-maker, that elusive big, power-forward like Nash?
Well, again, if I were Howson in Columbus, I’d try to fetch all I could, of course. He seems to have lost faith in young Mason, though I’m not sure Reimer would then enthuse him, as he is not yet quite “proven” as a bona fide NHL number-one goalie, either.
Instead, I’d be looking for someone to replace some of Nash’s offense, a nice future piece, and a very, very good defenseman. Again, if was Howson, I‘d be seeking quite a list of players. The demand would include whoever I thought had the most upside between Kadri/Colborne, a future piece in young Devane/Blacker, a current forward like Grabovski (cheaper than Nash) and Gunnarsson. And I'd push for a first-round pick. That’s five assets for one.
Too much, right?
Yes, but I’m thinking from Howson’s perspective. Now, in Burke’s shoes, obviously I’d try to offer as little as possible for a guy with a huge contract that runs a few more years at close to 8 million a season. What would I be prepared to give up?
I’m not sure. But if I wanted Nash (and if he doesn’t, this is a moot discussion), and knew some other top teams were competing for his services, I’d have to give up something pretty good. I’d certainly give up Kadri and could be coaxed to offer a first-rounder. If I had to include a defenseman, Aulie would be the guy, though I may regret it some day.
That would give Columbus three pieces to build with, and maybe a prospect in the system if they were really adamant. Now we’re up to four players who could be NHL’ers in the next few years
Is that enough? Does Nash even interest you? What would you give up if you were in Burke's shoes?
I look forward to your thoughts.