Geez, what a day.
Things we've heard: "Nash won't get traded before the deadline. Too complicated a deal" and "Now that this is out, Columbus will move quick to get it done. Don't need this hanging over the franchise."
Also: "He prefers to stay on the East Coast" and "He'd like to go to Vancouver."
Plus: "Nash asked to be traded" and "Columbus went to him first."
Sometimes, I think people just like to screw with our heads. One thing is for certain, the news getting out is a bad thing for both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Rick Nash. For Nash, who does not like attention, this is torture. A deal like this screams for discretion. Now it's going to hang over their heads like a monsoon cloud.
This is the most interesting question. At some point -- and it's pretty recent -- the Columbus Blue Jackets made a 180-degree turn in philosophy. Teams who called them earlier in the season were told, ""Our captain? You can look, but you cannot touch."
In such an awful season, hard questions must be asked and no cow is sacred. The Columbus Dispatch reported Tuesday the team's braintrust met last week and decided to explore the possibility of a trade. It is likely, however, that meeting was the culmination of a process. It appears management went to him a few weeks earlier and asked him about the possibility, waiting for the winger submit a list.
Nash was willing to do so because the team is looking at another rebuild. When he did, the group decided to move forward.
The Blue Jackets are in salary cap jail. They have more than $50 million US in commitments for next season. By my count, they don't get under $30 million until summer 2015.
Moving Nash alleviates that. He has the highest cap hit on the team ($7.8 million) and the second-longest term. He is not a free agent until 2018. There is no one on the Columbus roster who can bring a greater return.
One of the reasons the Blue Jackets targeted R.J. Umberger and James Wisniewski was they thought their team was "too nice." There's also no doubting the franchise's faith in Vaclav Prospal, just signed to an extension for next season. Prospal's been outspoken about the team's leadership issues -- and Nash must accept some of that.
It doesn't mean Nash is a bad guy or uninterested in winning. Anyone who watched him play in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics saw how much he cares. He may be, more Marian Hossa than Jonathan Toews, a superb, A-level complementary piece rather than a focal point.
STOP WASTING TIME, WHERE IS HE GOING?
Very complicated deal because there are three parts. First, Nash must be willing to go there. Second, that team must be willing to pay what Columbus is asking, which is substantial. Third, the winning bidder must be able to handle Nash's cap hit and what it means to your dressing room.
Nash would be the highest-paid player on 26 of the other 29 NHL teams (exceptions: Washington, Pittsburgh, Carolina). He's a great talent and not the type to do anything negative. But making that move is dangerous because you never know how your own players will react to "an outsider" with a massive deal. Just ask the Buffalo Sabres. Quadruple that when your guys take hometown discounts.
Look at Vancouver. On the surface, the Canucks are a perfect match. Nash is the kind of player Vancouver would consider trading Cory Schneider for. Add Cody Hodgson, Chris Tanev, maybe another piece and voila, you've got what looks like a pretty fair trade.
Don't think it's going to happen. The Canucks are full of guys who've taken less money -- Kevin Bieksa, Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler. Heck, the Sedins probably left about $15 million each on the table. It is the organization's philosophy to reward their own, with newcomers like Dan Hamhuis understanding they will not break the bank.
Same for San Jose. The core accepted below-market deals and Sharks general manager Doug Wilson thinks the trade deadline is a cesspool. Would be a massive change of philosophy.
The Canucks might consider Nash if they thought he was the final piece, but I'm not certain they do, especially with what he'll cost them, not only in terms of bodies, but flexibility. If the Canucks made that trade, they'd be out of bullets to fire. Don't see a match there.
There are a couple of teams who don't seem scared by that, though, teams you could see Nash wanting to play for -- the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers. New York's highest-paid players, Toronto's top five and Philly's top six were either free-agent signings or arrived in trades.
WHAT IF NO ONE WILL PAY HOWSON'S PRICE?
If a Schneider-Hodgson-Tanev-high draft pick package seems a lot to you, well, Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson has no choice but to ask the hottest girl to the prom. That report of Brandon Dubinsky, Chris Kreider and a first-rounder? You might as well march the Blue Jackets to The Horseshoe, Ohio State's famed football stadium, and have Tom Tupa punt the franchise to another city. Columbus absolutely cannot afford to make a mistake.
"The tough thing about trades like this one," said another GM, "is that Columbus is starting in a bad position. Chances are, you're giving up the best player."
That's Toronto's biggest problem. Don't see how the Maple Leafs have what Columbus wants. But Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke is nothing if not creative and, if any can pull off a complicated deal, he's the guy. Should Columbus want to use this to solve its goaltending problem, I'm not sure if the Rangers can do it without that same creativity.
Which leaves Philadelphia. There are a lot of teams who think this has Flyers written all over it. They've got a young goalie. So does Los Angeles -- and you know that Kings GM Dean Lombardi craves what Nash can do. Is he interested in going to the West Coast?
(Not sure if Brad Thiessen qualifies, but someone told me he wouldn't be surprised if Pittsburgh is one of Nash's choices. Great team and he's verrrrrrrry tight with James Neal. But I can't figure out how Ray Shero could make this work, cap-wise).
The big question, though, is how flexible Howson and Nash are willing to be. Don't think Howson can afford to be anything but steadfast. There's no doubt he's talking to teams that aren't on Nash's list, but could be great trade partners. If the best deal comes from one of those clubs, will Nash be willing if it's a legit Stanley Cup threat? Could be a big factor.
DOES THIS TRADE HAVE TO HAPPEN?
Survey says," Yes." I took a small poll of GMs and execs, asking if there is any chance Nash and the Blue Jackets could patch things up in true Valentine's Day spirit. One brought up Steve Yzerman and Detroit, which is a great argument. But others pointed out that Yzerman never wanted to leave, while Nash clearly is ready to go.
"You can't go back now," one GM said. But he and others believe the deal won't get done until the draft.
While it'll be painful to have this drag, it's probably for the best. Only one team is going to get Zach Parise, which will make Nash an even hotter commodity. Maybe another team makes a run and appeals to him. The trade contenders will have time to work their budgets/cap space.
Nash must understand he is guaranteed to be a winner in all of this. His no-move means he has ultimate control. Nothing happens that he doesn't like.
But by rushing, Columbus could make a mistake. There's a reason these kinds of trades take time.
Do you have improvements to suggest for this page?