HEY GANG I’M BACK! I’d explain why it’s been a few months, but let’s be honest, no one reads this.
The Rangers are first in the NHL, which is really weird. Much like the finale of the most recent season of Mad Men I keep expecting to wake up and find out it’s all a dream, but it seems as though that shall not be the case. In short, this is unexpected and it rules. One would think that this would be all fans need to be comfortable with the make-up of the team, but Blue Jackets’ GM Scott Howson threw the rest of the league a bit of a curveball: he made Rick Nash available.
Various sources have reported that the package for Nash would require a top-six roster player, a top prospect, and a first-round pick. Most of you probably know this by now, but for the Rangers this would mean a package of Dubinsky, this year’s first-rounder, and Chris Kreider. The major debate amongst fans has been over whether Kreider should be untouchable, even for a player the caliber of Rick Nash.
Here’s the first thing to know: Rick Nash is goddamn unbelievable. People will point to the fact that he scores less than a point per game, but anyone who spends their whole career playing with 3rd liners and guys who should be in the AHL just isn’t going to produce at that rate. To give you an idea: in his second year, Nash had 41 goals and 16 assists. On a well-constructed team, any top-9 player could get 16 assists with his eyes closed. A guy with Nash’s talent needs to be paired with some seriously brutal players to have assist numbers that low, and he’s been stuck with players like that every year of his career. To put up the numbers he has when defenses have been able to key in on him exclusively is absolutely outstanding.
Other testaments to Nash’s elite-ness (elitism? Elitistry? I need to go back to school):
1) He was a shoe-in for team Canada at the last Olympics. This is the only talent evaluation I ever need to hear.
2) When he plays in international situations and is lined up with other high-caliber players, he is absolutely terrifying. For my money, Nash was Canada’s most impressive forward each game. Put this guy with talent (Brad Richards, for example), and he will absolutely tear it up.
3) He is 27. Guys extend their prime until their mid-30s nowadays, meaning his contract (through 2018, when he’d be 33) would give the team the sweet-spot years of his career. It’s not like the Jeff Carter contract, where he’s signed until like age 49.
There are, however, a few concerns with Nash. A $7.8 Million cap hit is one. Another is that he’s always expressed a desire to play in small markets and avoid large, high-scrutiny markets. Obviously, you’d have to be concerned if he would react poorly to being in NYC on both a personal and professional level. Lastly, there are concerns with whether his style of play would mesh with Torts’ coaching philosophy. My response to that would be A) tell that to Marian Gaborik, B) Nash is a big boy, and as long as he wouldn’t shy away from physical play and responsibility in his own zone, he would fit on the team with no problem, and C) having Gaborik-Step-Artie and Nash-Richie-Cally as the top 2 lines is a matchup nightmare for any team the Rangers play.
From the Rangers’ end, the first-round pick would mean nothing as they expect to be drafting late this year (although most scouts feel this is a deep year). Dubinsky is part of the team’s core, but he’s basically reached his ceiling as a solid 2nd-liner and good penalty killer, and for that role he’s being badly overpaid. In the now, trading Dubinsky for Nash would be one of the biggest immediate trade-deadline upgrades since the lockout.
Kreider is the guy who makes this interesting. Athletically, he is a beast. He’s probably about 6’3″ and 225 lbs, and that’s without NHL strength coaches. His shot is absurdly powerful and accurate. I’ve seen him skate in person, and I guarantee you he is as fast or faster than Gaborik. The main debate with Kreider is whether or not his hockey IQ is high enough for him to reach his athletic potential, or if it’s low enough to hold him back. If they don’t trade him and he burns out or tops out as a 3rd liner, it would be brutal if he was the deal-breaker for the Rangers acquiring Nash. If they keep him and he lives up to his massive potential, they could have a player who can do Nash-like things on an entry-level contract which would be a dream come true.
I don’t see the Rangers making this deal, in part because they’re so high on Kreider and in part because I think moving Dubi during the season could badly threaten the team’s chemistry and possibly mess up the great thing they have going now. If the Jackets really want to trade Nash, then wait until the off-season and take a look. Plus keep in mind that the Ducks may look to move Bobby Ryan at some point if they lose momentum or miss the playoffs, and he costs less and could fit better into the Rangers’ philosophy overall, not to mention he’s a Jersey native.
In conclusion: wait. Don’t take the chance to screw your team up when you’re better than everyone else in the league. See how they do in the playoffs, then figure out how to re-tool later if necessary. My only regret would be not having a player I could call Rick “Big Sexy” Nash, which I imagine the front-office isn’t considering.
It’ll be fun to see if the Rangers make any moves at the deadline, but I don’t expect to see Rick Nash on Broadway.