For the second straight year, the playoffs ended with Rick Nash in the headlines for not producing enough. The winger that was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets in hopes that he would help carry the team to a Stanley Cup was unable to contribute offensively for the most part, resulting in fans calling for his head. In 37 playoff games with the Rangers, Nash has tallied four goals and eleven assists. Needless to say the Rangers expect more out of a player they are paying $7.8M annually, so fans have been discussing the possibility of New York trying to trade Nash.
This is where it gets difficult, and where it must be understood that in all likelihood keeping Nash is better for the team than trading him. Here is what I wrote in my do's and don'ts of the off-season:
Do consider trading Rick Nash: To be perfectly clear, I put the chances of the Rangers getting an offer for Rick Nash that actually makes sense for the team at below 0%. Nash's contract is too bad and he hasn't shown what GM's look for to be able to commit to his contract and give assets to the Rangers in return. The issue with trading Nash is that the Rangers would need to avoid eating a lot of salary, get a little bit in return, and replace Nash immediately. The Rangers cannot afford to lose Nash and not replace him on the top line.
So why is trading Nash under the "do" category? Scott Gomez was traded for Ryan McDonagh. Jaromir Jagr was traded for Anson Carter. Crazy things happen, and if the Maple Leafs call the Rangers and say "James van Riemsdyk for Rick Nash," the Rangers need to jump on it. I will be thrilled if I hear Glen Sather is putting out feelers to see if he can trade Nash and turn the assets or cash into a cheaper replacement. It's an almost impossible move, but it's worth at least considering.
The issue with trading Rick Nash-besides the fact that he has a no movement clause and can veto any trade- is that there is essentially zero chance the Rangers can do so without making the team worse. While it would be a futile task to argue that Nash has been good enough offensively in the playoffs, he has contributed greatly in other areas.
First of all, in the regular season Nash provided offensive sparks when needed, scoring 26 goals in only 65 games. Most likely the Rangers would not have gotten their favorable home-ice first round match-up against the Philadelphia Flyers if Nash hadn't helped win a bunch of games. Nash came through with numerous clutch goals and was more often than not someone opposing teams had to latch their top defencemen to. The fear factor alone was huge for the Rangers, as they were able to throw their depth lines out there against bottom pairing defencemen.
Secondly, while Nash's offense was non-existent in the playoffs once again, his overall performance was actually solid. Nash's possession numbers were above average, and his back-checking and strength on defense caused problems for opponents. One has to wonder why Nash was not allowed much time on the power-play in the playoffs, which could have helped his offense out as well. Nash had a similar post-season to that of Sidney Crosby, who also got blasted by the media for not producing enough.
The fact remains that the Rangers will need Nash to produce more for his contract to not be concerning and there are some little adjustments that could go a long way for Nash. Notice how Chris Kreider played in the post-season, as he got to the dirty areas on the ice, got in front of the net, and used his speed and strength together rather than trying to over-power strong defencemen. Nash needs to understand that his finesse move to the middle that he loves so dearly does not work in playoff hockey, as the defencemen are stronger and less willing to give up space.
Nash's contract is the greatest issue, as his deal pays him like a superstar, while he plays like a solid first liner in the regular season, and a second or third liner at best in the playoffs. Even Nash at his best may not be worth $7.8M when considering players that make less, but the Rangers made the trade knowing his contract, and now they must live with it. The biggest argument in favor of trading Nash would be that his contract financially restricts the Rangers from making other moves.Depth was key for the Rangers this past season, and a cap hit of $7.8M hurts the ability to keep depth players when they hit free agency.
Trading Nash means trading into an even worse top six, unless the Rangers can find a replacement through free agency. With an already weak top six, the only way a trade makes sense in terms of putting the best product on the ice is if the Rangers can swap Nash for another high scoring, high paid winger that isn't paid just as much. This remains extremely unlikely, which once again leads to the belief that Nash will be wearing Ranger blue next season.
I am confident that with the proper adjustments Nash can help the Rangers offensively and in the post-season, but if the right deal is offered, the Rangers should certainly consider it. Nash's present should be watching game-tape from this year's playoffs and seeing why he wasn't able to produce offensively. The future? Hope it's with the Rangers and work on being ready for next season. Maybe next year Nash will contribute offensively and help the Rangers lift the Cup.