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Trade Rick Nash? Not so fast

John Dundon

rick nash profile 2-19

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

The Blueshirts’ latest playoff endeavor, albeit a brief one, had a different feel when it came to watching Rick Nash on the ice.

Nash scored two goals and had two assists in those five games against Pittsburgh. After a productive playoff stretch in 2015 that saw Nash net 15 points in 19 games, I’m of the opinion that barring a home-run of a return, trading Rick Nash would be unwise if this team is serious about winning the Stanley Cup in the next few years. Here’s why:

We are so quick to attach labels to players in the NHL. Usually, these labels are a result of these 10-30 game runs we call “the playoffs.” Hockey is a game of percentages, bounces and confidence-based mojo. These three factors usually determine when the puck goes in the net for all world talents, like Nash—and they don’t take the time to consider the time of year. There are ups and downs.

For Nash, a three-time 40 goal scorer, it feels like his going cold at the wrong time has shaped the narrative surrounding his NYR tenure. His three playoff runs in NY have all been similar in that he has been one of the best forwards on the ice every night. He is a dominating presence without the puck—especially on the penalty kill. He’s the most talented player on the roster without question, perhaps the only Ranger capable of being a game-breaker.

The fact of the matter is though; Nash has not been that game-breaker in any of his three playoff runs in NYC, not yet anyway. In this city when you’re paid the big bucks as Nash is, your leash gets a little bit shorter every season.

Coming off of an underwhelming 15 goal, 21 assist season in which Nash missed 22 games due to injury, trade talk has heated up, understandably so. It is only fair to explore trade avenues for a thirty-something year old player who has had significant injuries in two of his three full seasons in Rangers blue. But trading Rick Nash now would mean the Rangers will miss out on yet another star player’s playoff goal-explosion, as they did with Marian Gaborik in 2014.

The Gaborik situation is similar in some ways to the Nash dilemma. Gaborik was a valued scoring winger that hadn’t seen the high goal outputs from the fall and winter duplicated in the spring and summer. The Rangers shipped Gabby off to CBJ in a trade that you absolutely make 10 out of 10 times—it netted the Rangers Derrick Brassard. This also meant though that the Rangers missed out on the spring where—like every great goal scorer– Gabby got the bounces.

Gaborik potted 14 goals in the Kings’ 26 game playoff run that culminated in their second cup in three years. He led LA in goals that postseason. No Ranger has seen double digit playoff goal numbers in the last five postseason runs. That’s been this groups big problem: they’ve lacked the “go to” guy.

Before Gaborik’s spring of bounces, he was Rick Nash. A talented winger that for whatever reason, just couldn’t score when it counted most. Until he did.

Two summers after the Rangers watched their former regular season stud/playoff dud light them up in the Cup Final, they’re looking down a similar barrel with more difficult circumstances.

Nash’s cap hit is the biggest question mark regarding any potential trade. At a cool $7.8 million per, no team is going to want to send important pieces the other way with the conditions as they are. Salary retention on behalf of the NYR is probable.

The big problem associated with any Rick Nash trade is that, unless you’re getting a damn good goal scorer back, you’ve lost the only player realistically capable of netting 15 goals in a single postseason.

The fact of the matter is that Nash HAS had these high production clips in the past. At the tail end of the 12-13 season, Nash netted 17 goals in a 29 game run.  In 2014, Nash scored 12 goals in a 15 game stretch. To kick off his 42 goal campaign in 14-15, Nash scored 16 goals in the first 22 games of the season. Like many other great goal scorers, when Nash gets hot, the puck finds its way in.

If the Rangers decide (or already have decided) that they’re going to move Nash right now, the return would need to include young roster player(s) with upside. A swap for a scoring winger pushing 30 wouldn’t do the team any good in the long or short run.

So if the Rangers did find a really good deal in which A) They’d net a positive return, and B) No salary would be retained, and C) They acquired a viable replacement in the goal scoring category, then I’d be all for flipping Nash for a positive net gain while saving some money.

Just be warned: Rick Nash’s spring of bounces is going to come. Whether it happens with Nash as a Ranger or not remains to be seen. In any case, the NYR brass would be wise to exercise caution when it comes to shipping off Rick Nash this summer.

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Posted on May 9, 2016, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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