Fire Sale in Columbus: Is Rick Nash Next?

The Columbus Blue Jackets don’t seem to care that the trade deadline is on Monday. In the past two days they’ve traded away two of their top six most expensive contracts. News broke Thursday night that Jeff Carter was traded to the Los Angeles Kings for Jack Johnson and a conditional first-round draft pick, while Antoine Vermette was shipped to Phoenix the previous day.

In the Carter trade Los Angeles gets what it desperately needs, a forward who can score goals. The Kings sit last in the NHL in scoring and are clinging to the final playoff spot in the West. Carter has scored more than 30 goals in his previous three seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, including a 46-goal campaign in 2008-09.

He has struggled in Columbus this season and has had two separate injuries, a broken foot, and a separated shoulder. Despite these troubles, he has 15 goals and 10 assists in 39 games this season. A major benefit for L.A is the instant chemistry he’ll have with former teammate Mike Richardson on and off the ice.

Photo courtesy of Resolute

With Jack Johnson, Columbus gets a solid blue-liner that skates well and can run the power play. Johnson is inked to a long-term deal that expires in 2018 at a cap hit of $4.3 million and change, which isn’t a bad price for a top defenceman. Fourteen of Johnson’s 29 points this season have come with the man advantage, and he had 28 points (3G, 25A) on the power play last season.

The future first-rounder that Columbus may receive will most likely be a mid-to-late pick depending on where the Kings finish. This will basically be a roll of the dice, but it could work out tremendously in the Jackets’ favor.

The Carter trade came just a day after the Jackets sent Antoine Vermette to Phoenix for goaltender Curtis McElhinney, a second round draft pick and a conditional fifth rounder. Depth at goalie is something the Jackets desperately need since former Rookie of the Year Steve Mason and journeyman Curtis Sanford just don’t seem to be cutting it. Columbus ranks second worst in the NHL in goals against this season.

Now that they have traded away a net of over four million dollars worth of salary, could their most expensive player and best asset be next? Rick Nash has been the subject of trade rumors during the past month since Columbus has been stinking it up in the league’s basement all year.

Los Angeles was one of the likely places Nash could have ended up, but now that they’re out of the running for his services and it appears that if he is going to go anywhere, it will probably be to the New York Rangers.

Photo courtesy of 5of7

The Rangers are poised to make a run at this year’s Stanley Cup but are in need of another top six forward, which Mr. Nash most certainly is. The price won’t be cheap for New York though. It will probably cost them Brandon Dubinsky, a first round pick and either Ryan McDonagh or Michael Del Zotto, or both for that matter.

Dubinsky is a gritty forward that led the Rangers in scoring last season (54 points), but really hasn’t found his touch this year. Del Zotto  is a stud on the PP and only 21 years of age. McDonagh is a solid, stay-at-home minute cruncher who has yet to reach hit his ceiling. He averages more than 25 minutes per game.

This potential trade could leave the Rangers a little thin on the blue line, but when you have Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes, its an option to to take that risk.

Other teams that have been rumored to have an interest in the Nash sweepstakes are the San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings. San Jose may have to give up too many players that currently play for the club, whereas Detroit is loaded with top prospects that could interest a rebuilding club like Columbus.

If I were Scott Howson, the general manager of the Blue Jackets, there is no way I would trade Rick Nash unless the package coming in was way too good to be true. Nash is under contract until 2018, and despite an off year, he will probably still score 30 goals (he currently has 20).

He is 100% the type of franchise player that you dream about building your franchise around. Jackets fans would never forgive  him for trading away the best player the franchise may ever see.

Nash may not be the next one to go but could be a casualty of the Columbus rebuilding fire sale. Either way it’s going to be interesting leading up to the trade deadline on Feb. 27 to see where Rick Nash ends up, if anywhere at all.

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