Rick Nash is moving on from the Columbus Blue Jackets after nine season, headed to the New York Rangers for three players and a draft pick.
Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson announced Monday the club had dealt the big right winger, the team's captain and career leader in most offensive categories, along with a conditional 2013 third-round draft pick and minor-league defenceman Steve Delisle. In return, the Rangers sent centres Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, defenceman Tim Erixon and a first-round pick in 2013.
"It's about winning right now, that's what you want to do," said Howson, GM of a franchise with just one playoff berth in 11 seasons of play. "This is not a trade where we think we're going to be better five years from now, we think we can be better next year and we think these players can help us do that."
The conditional pick will be returned to the Blue Jackets if the Rangers make the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. The trade is pending all players passing a physical.
Nash is the oldest player in the deal at 28.
"I was very excited [to get the call], looking forward to this opportunity and being part of something that I think is pretty special with what they already have going on with the Rangers," Nash said on a media conference call.
It shocked many when Nash, who shared the NHL lead in goals with 41 in 2003-04, revealed in February that he asked management a month earlier for a trade. When a deal wasn't worked out, he finished the year in Columbus, and immediately became the hottest name on the off-season trade market.
Nash said the waiting game of five months was tough.
The Rangers were in pursuit from the beginning, while Howson was limited by the teams that Nash would consider as a new destination.
"These things take a long time to get negotiated [sometimes], they take a long time for the team that's trading a player like this, and I'm sure it was very difficult for Scott to make the decision to trade him," said New York general manager Glen Sather.
Nash has scored over 30 goals in a season seven times, including the last five seasons. For his career, he's tallied 289 goals and 259 assists in 674 regular season games, with 568 penalty minutes.
The Brampton, Ont. native has played twice for Canada at the Olympics, including a 2006 squad that included New York's big offseason acquisition of last season, centre Brad Richards.
He has a contract that represents a salary cap hit of $7.8 million US through the 2017-18 season.
New York gave away three players who were originally drafted within the first two rounds, but didn't have to part with young forward prospect Chris Kreider or the core of their defence — Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Del Zotto and Dan Girardi.
"Most of these guys have grown up together," said Sather. "They've got good chemistry, they get along well, they're a very happy grpup, but I think by adding Nash it doesn't break up the core of our hockey club.
The Rangers were a respectable 11th in goal scoring en route to finishing first in the East, but their offensive game was limited in the playoffs despite reaching the conference final.
The club is also expected to be without their top sniper, right wing Marian Gaborik, until at least November due to a shoulder injury.
Nash will no longer be the dominant face on a small market team, and the Rangers already have a respected captain in place, Ryan Callahan.
More Jacket changes
Sather said the big move doesn't preclude the club from adding pieces, although he wouldn't speculate specifically on veteran Shane Doan, who is mulling whether to leave Phoenix for another NHL city.
The Blue Jackets have rehauled their roster in the last 12 months, adding in previous trades players such as defencemen Jack Johnson and Nikita Nikitin, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and forward Nick Foligno.
Of the players Columbus acquired from New York, only the 24-year-old Anisimov offers the potential to put a lot of points on the board. He scored 81 points in an AHL season, but has yet to crack 44 in three NHL campaigns.
Dubinsky, 26, set a career high with 54 points in 2010-11, but saw that total drop by 20 last season.
"I have no issues about Brandon Dubinsky bouncing back, I think he will," said Howson. "I think he had a bit of an off year offensively, but he [still] impacted games every time he plays."
Howson added that Dubinsky and Anisimov have the potential to score 20 goals, as well as playing centre even strength or on each special teams scenario.
Dubinsky's cap hit is $4.2 million through the 2015-16 season. Anisimov earns $1.875 million next season and then is a restricted free agent, while Erixon is making $1.75 million the next two seasons before becoming an RFA.
Erixon, a 21-year-old Swede, has 18 games of NHL experience. This is already his second move, having been drafted by Calgary 23rd overall in 2009.
"We wanted a top prospect in the deal and we think Tim Erixon fulfills that," said Howson.
Sather said on his conference call that the money exchanged in the deal was "a wash", despite Nash representing such a big cap hit.