PITTSBURGH, PA - FEBRUARY 26: Columbus Blue Jackets fans in Pittsburgh show their support for Rick Nash #61 of the Columbus Blue Jackets as Nash warms up before a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 26, 2012 at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Although it's been pretty close to a foregone conclusion for a few weeks now that Rick Nash wouldn't be landing in San Jose after repeated reports that Columbus GM Scott Howson refused to lower his asking price from Logan Couture, it's still a relief to hear that it's finally official with news breaking this morning that Nash has been traded to the New York Rangers in exchange for Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon and a first-round pick. Couture stays a Shark, Joe Pavelski won't be heading to Ohio and the Sharks won't need to expend $46.8 million in cap space (and a shade over $47 million in real money) over the next six years for a 28-year-old winger whose scoring rate and possession numbers have been on a pretty steady decline.
Howson did well for himself here, even if the return does highlight how ludicrous his demands of Couture from the Sharks and Sean Couturier from the Flyers really were. Dubinsky and Anisimov are both plus-possession players who have outshot and outscored tough competition in the past and should provide the Blue Jackets with more value in that capacity than Nash. Neither of them has exhibited the goal-scoring ability of Columbus' former captain but it's worth nothing that Dubinsky and Anisimov scored 1.72 and 1.45 5v5 points per 60 minutes, respectively, last season in what were down years offensively for both of them while Nash scored 1.89. Erixon was the first-round pick of the Calgary Flames in 2009 and infamously refused to sign with that franchise, essentially orchestrating a trade to his father's former team, New York, last June. Hilariously, he now gets to ply his trade with the Jackets (unless, of course, he holds out on them as well) for the foreseeable future but projects to be a very talented two-way defenseman.
Meanwhile, the Rangers are one of the few teams for whom acquiring Nash isn't the worst idea. Nash's no-movement clause expires in 2015 and, should he have completely bottomed out by then a la Dany Heatley, New York has shown that they're willing and able to stash enormous contracts in the minors and would likely do so. On the other hand, the Rangers were a mediocre possession team last season that got by largely on the back of Henrik Lundqvist. Replacing two of their better play-drivers with Nash doesn't do anything to help them in that regard.
The consensus seems to be that the Nash trade was the first domino to fall and should lead to Anaheim Ducks winger Bobby Ryan and free agents Alexander Semin and Shane Doan changing addresses in the near future. It's safe to say that there's probably a better chance of the Ducks winning the Stanley Cup next season than trading Ryan to one of their biggest rivals so I doubt the Sharks are in on that sweepstakes. I'd be (pleasantly) surprised if Semin is on the Sharks' radar but it's become increasingly probable that he isn't on any NHL team's radar as he's remained without a contract despite rumblings he'd settle for the deal Ales Hemsky signed this past February with the Oilers, a two-year, $10 million pact that would be an absolute steal. Doan likely won't be making his decision until more information comes to light regarding Phoenix's ownership situation although he represents the only one of the three aforementioned wingers with a legitimate chance of starting next season in a Sharks sweater. Although adding another top-six winger to move Ryane Clowe down to the third line would be a nice move, a more realistic goal for the Sharks remains adding a third-liner or two to push Michal Handzus out of the lineup. But there's more than enough time to do that; today is about rejoicing the fact that Doug Wilson dodged a major bullet here and avoided swapping a valuable two-way forward (be it Couture or Pavelski) for a player whose reputation and cap hit far outstrips what he's likely to provide over the remainder of his contract.