The Hockey Gods have finally thrown a bone to those few still looking forward to Trade Deadline 2012. Rather than watch seven straight hours of panel analysis on how Boston’s (or whoever’s) decision to acquire Bryan Allen for a second round pick was a strategic masterstroke, instead we get this: Rick Nash is on the block.
Now, I imagine every blog for every team will be writing their version of this post over the next couple of days, so let me start by saying that Ottawa’s chances of obtaining him are practically nil. He’s got a no-movement clause in his contract, so he can pick where he goes, and I’m not sure why he’d assent to move from one rebuilder (albeit a perpetual one) to another while in his prime, even if the latter rebuilder is playing better than expected.
As I see it, the three things that might work in Ottawa’s favor are:
1) Nash’s experience playing with Jason Spezza in the World Championships. It seems like every year this happens, and the two tear it up (against terrible competition), and Ottawa Senators blogs write about what it would take to get Nash and how it will never happen, and Columbus blogs write about what it would take to get Spezza (and how it might actually happen). The point being that this elusive ‘elite center’ that Nash requires to reach his potential is not a turnkey solution, and Nash is a player Ottawa actually has game tape of playing with their guy. It’s less of a risk for Ottawa to gamble resources on obtaining him. Jeff Carter hasn’t looked comfortable playing with Nash, though to be fair he hasn’t looked comfortable in Columbus, period. Sticking Nash on a line with Brad Richards (he of $9MM a year and three more points than Nick Foligno) in New York is no guarantee. The other teams reported to be scouting him (seriously…scouting Rick Nash? What’s to scout?) are Washington, Pittsburgh, Dallas and Detroit, and all but Dallas have truly elite centers to play with Nash. But again, you’re making a huge commitment in money and years in the hopes that chemistry is there. With Spezza you at least know that the two work together, which means maybe Murray is willing to outbid the opposition on this one.
Which brings me to…
2) Ottawa has the cap space and the prospects. Most of the teams who are in the running have the pro rated room this season (if I’m understanding the deadline cap calculation process correctly), but would have to let substantial pieces walk in the offseason to fit Nash going forward. In the case of a team like New York, you’re mucking with a team at the top of the standings all season long by trading away at least one roster player to obtain Nash, and then allowing yet more to walk to maintain the cap space. Other teams might have to insist that Columbus take salary back in the deal. Ottawa, as of this writing, has a trillion dollars in cap space, doesn’t have to insist on a salary dump, and doesn’t have to give up a major piece going forward. Again, Murray can deal a great hand if he decides Nash needs to be in an Ottawa jersey.
3) Nash apparently doesn’t want to go to a big market. I don’t know about this one, as it’s a bit nebulous – hey, who wouldn’t want to live in New York City? – but that’s the rumor. Would he want to go to New York or Toronto only to have the media shoot him in the kneecap the first game he goes without a point? Ottawa offers him another under-the-radar market, but in a hockey mad country, and in a city only marginally as cursed. Might be a nice middle ground.
Sooooooooo what would it take to get him? That Puck Daddy story says New York is rumored to give up Brandon Dubinsky, prospect Chris Kreider and a first round pick. Frankly, that doesn’t sound like much for an elite player. You’re talking a solid top six player who is good but you can’t likely build around, a good but not elite prospect (Kreider was drafted 19th overall in 2009, and projects as a top six power forward) and a very late 1st rounder.
Ottawa doesn’t really have a roster player of Dubinsky’s quality and tradeability (that’s not a word) that they’d want to part with (Karlsson is untouchable, and what’s the point of giving up Spezza if the whole point is to pair the two?), but might beat that package with one of their own late 2011 first rounders (Puempel, Noesen), one of their surprising later rounders like Mark Stone (who might be a the height of his trade value now after the World Juniors, and if you believe, as I do, that he’ll have trouble transitioning his game to the NHL), and their 2012 first round pick, which projects as top 15. If not that, perhaps a package with Jared Cowen or Mika Zibanejad as its cornerstone could get it done. Stephan DaCosta is still alive, this Binghamton newspaper I’m reading says.
I return again to the notion that Ottawa pulled the trigger on that Rundblad trade way too early. Turris is paying off for Ottawa right now, but knowing that a rare player like Nash might be available, and that Rundblad would surely have been a key bargaining chip, I wonder if the best we could get for the best offensive-defenseman prospect in the game and a second rounder was a potential bust who, thank god, is working out for now. Knowing that we have a CBA negotiation coming up, there may be even more teams who find themselves in impossible situations come 2013 and so have to offload salary in a hurry, and Ottawa was primed as a team with cap space and prospects to take advantage of those situations. It will be harder to do that now, as our remaining prospects are not as redundant as Rundblad was.
If I had to wager a guess, I say Nash goes to New York, if only because that’s the way it always works with that market. (Brad Richard, Marian Gaborick and Rick Nash all playing on the same team? How could it be anywhere other than New York? Then they’ll sign Semin next year, just you watch.) Or possibly Toronto, since Brian Burke is long overdue for his mid-season overhaul and it’s been talked about for about 17 years.
Editor’s correction: Gaborick is actually spelled Gaborik. I must have been thinking of his brother, Rick Gaborick.