If Rick Nash is available, should San Jose come calling?
Allow me to preface this article with a few statements.
1. I do not think a deal between the Sharks and Columbus for Rick Nash has any real chance of happening.
2. Rick Nash is probably my favorite player in the NHL to watch, so I might be biased here.
Now all that is in the open, let's talk about Rick Nash and how well he fits on the San Jose Sharks.
First off, while I've heard plenty of arguments to the contrary, Rick Nash is one of the best player in the NHL and has been ever since his sophomore season in 2003-2004. That year, Nash scored an incredible 41 goals and since then has only scored less than 30 once, potting 27 in 2006-2007 after missing about 10 games with injury. Yes, his overall point numbers are low in comparison to his goals scored, as he only eclipsed the point-per-game benchmark one time in his nine year career. There's a reason for that, though...
He's played his entire career for Columbus.
Don't get me wrong, at times Columbus has been one of the hardest matchups for the Sharks; the Blue Jackets (especially under Ken Hitchcock) have always been a tough, grind it out team that plays a tight defensive style. But they've never been goal scorers as a bunch.
Want proof? How about this: Here's where they've stood league wide in goals scored since the lockout (Present to Past, in order):
26th, 24th, 21st, 21st, 29th, 28th & 28th.
That's not an environment in which a player like Rick Nash thrives in the assist department. Even this year, after the Jackets added Jeff Carter, the Jackets have had a miserable time putting the puck in the net. So when I hear people talk about the fact that Nash doesn't have the numbers to back up the praise he receives, I raise an eyebrow.
The problems in Columbus are many this season; suspensions, injuries, terrible goaltending and an over-matched defense have all been culprits in their terrible season and resulting situation - last in the NHL standings. From here, with only 10 wins to their credit, it sure looks like the Columbus Blue Jackets' season is over.
Because of this, trade rumors have already begun to swirl, and although no one thought that Rick Nash would be even discussed as an option to be moved, he came out and said that he would be willing to waive his NMC if it helped the Jackets. Now, Columbus GM Scott Howson has said he wants to retain Nash, but this type of talk at least warrants a look from the Sharks perspective.
Would Nash help San Jose? That goes without question. Not only are the Sharks having trouble turning shots into goals lately, but they're having an increasingly hard time doing that on the power play. Nash is a bonafide goal scorer who has no trouble playing offense.
Where Nash would surprisingly help as well, though, would be on the penalty kill. Though he's only played 0:29 seconds of shorthanded time per game this season, he put up 2:16 per game in 2009-2010, 2:13 in 2008-2009 and 2:34 in 2007-2008. Shorthanded, he's a threat to score (he has 12 shorthanded goals in his career, including this beauty, and this one is four on four, but holy crap), and he could help spell some of the Sharks' big guns who also kill penalties.
I shouldn't have to justify the "why" much more though, he's undoubtedly one of the ten best forwards in the NHL on skill alone and should have NHL GM'sfoaming at the mouth thinking about the possibility adding him to their squad. The problem for the Sharks would be the "how".
Nash carries with him an enormous cap hit, $7.8MM through the 2017-2018 seasonto be exact, and therefore would require some significant salary going the other way. When discussing a trade the last few days with my Fear the Fin cohorts, we worked out a few deals that make sense, but they'd definitely painful.
I still do the deal if I'm Doug Wilson, even if it means that top prospects or key players (outside of Couture, Vlasic, Thornton, Marleau, Burns and Niemi) need to be included. It's a sell your first born type thing, but if Scott Howson wants to play the role of Rumpelstiltskin and accept that deal... I wouldn't have a hard time saying goodbye to that unborn baby. (I apologize for the fairy tale reference, but my wife has become hooked on ABC's Once Upon a Time and as a result of the marathon she forced me to watch last Sunday, I haven't gotten my metaphor groove back yet.)
The deal would make San Jose a bit top heavy in the salary department, but the fact that Nash is so talented, and is currently only 27, helps you stomach that a bit. You save some money as a result of the players you ship out, and also the fact that there are some expensive expiring UFA's on the roster (like Torrey Mitchell).
In a world without salary concerns, it's a no brainer. He's a leader, a dynamic talent and a classy guy. He's also good friends with Joe Thornton, from their time together in Switzerland during the lockout. With salary concerns, it's really tough to make it work. And based on the players San Jose is likely willing to offer, many other teams could make a better pitch.
It's definitely a pipe dream, but one that's fun to discuss. So the question is, what would you trade for Rick Nash?