Rick Nash wanted out of Columbus, but in the end Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson didn’t pull the trigger as Monday’s trade deadline came to a conclusion.
Howson, who held a news conference shortly after the 3 p.m. ET deadline, said he fielded offers from several teams yet didn’t find one enticing enough to deal his captain and star player.
"With regard to Rick Nash, he approached us and asked us to consider trading him," Howson said. "We agreed to accommodate his request as long as we could get a deal that would provide us with cornerstone pieces to help us compete for [a] Stanley Cup championship in the coming years.
"It did not happen. This is too important to our franchise and our fans to do a deal that is not in our best interest. We pursued a number of options but none provided the value back that we could justify traded a player of Rick’s calibre."
While Nash was not having a great statistical season — 21 goals and 43 points in 62 games — he was the top name heading into Monday’s trade deadline.
Price high for Nash
The belief was that the asking price for Nash was an elite-level young player, a first-round pick and a prospect or two, according to CBCSports.ca’s Tim Wharnsby.
It was also reported that the New York Rangers made Howson a significant offer.
"The price was high and I don’t apologize for that," he said. "It had to be high. We had significant discussions today but it didn’t happen."
The Blue Jackets find themselves in an uncomfortable situation moving forward. They dealt forward Jeff Carter to the Los Angeles Kings for defenceman Jack Johnson and a conditional first-round pick (it's in 2012 if the Kings make the playoffs, if not it's 2013). The feeling is Carter, who Columbus acquired in the off-season from Philadelphia, wanted out and the Blue Jackets obliged.
Now Nash, the team’s No. 1 overall pick in 2002, must stay with the last-place Blue Jackets through the rest of the season. As part of his no-trade clause, Nash still has six years remaining on a deal that will pay him $7.8 million US per year. But Howson doesn’t believe there will be any awkwardness between the club and its captain.
"Rick’s a quality person. I talked to him just after 3:00 and I explained our position," Howson said. "You all know him, he’s a great person and he understands.
"He’s a member of our team right now … he’s our captain. That’s not going to change. Obviously, we’re going to look at all of our options as we move forward once we get around the draft in the summer."
Although there may be concerns about potential free agents shying away from the beleaguered franchise, Howson believes there’s only one way to fix that problem.
"Free agency is a tool to use to help strengthen your club," he said. "We think we have a lot to offer here in Columbus. The first thing we have to do here in Columbus, quite frankly, is have a winning culture to attract free agents."