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Gauging Rick Nash's Trade Value

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NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With the rumors of the New York Rangers shopping dynamic winger Rick Nash on the trade market this summer, I thought I’d examine some trades made in the past few off-seasons to decipher some relativity as to his theoretical worth. A trade is dependent on so many countless variables; a team’s want and need, comparable alternatives, misjudgment of front offices, etc. But nevertheless... let’s look at some trades to see if we can’t get some sense of what trading Nash could yield Broadway.

While Nash was coming off an offensively-regressive season where he missed several weeks with a deep bone bruise, make no mistake, Nash still retains significant trade value. In addition to his offense, his multi-dimensional skill set includes sound defensive and penalty-killing abilities, which could and should make him a valuable asset to one of the other 29 NHL teams.

Let's look at some deals of precedent, shall we?

Comparing to the 2012 Kesler Trade:

Vancouver Canucks v Los Angeles Kings Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

June 27, 2014: Vancouver Canucks trade Ryan Kesler and the #84 draft pick to Anaheim Ducks for the #24 and #85 draft picks, along with 24-year old Luca Sbisa and 26-year old Nick Bonino.

First, a big difference here is Kesler is a center; which tends to be a more valuable position all else equal to a winger. Secondly Kesler was only 30 years old at the time of the trade, while Nash will turn 32 years old this summer. Third, Kesler had a cap hit of $5 million, meaning he only occupied 7.25% of the incoming salary cap, whereas Nash owns one with $7.8 million, which would be 10.54% of a theoretical $74 million salary cap.

Yet with those differences aside, there remain some similarities.

Both players had/have two more seasons until unrestricted free agency. Both players had/have a trading team that didn’t need to trade him, but did so as to extract value and salary cap space. Both players had/have an active no-trade clause at the time of the deal, meaning either player had to/have to agree to their new destinations.

Additionally, both players were experiencing the same relative three-year arc of production up until that off-season, though Nash's stats are much better:

Click here for a closer view

Sbisa was a former 19th overall draft pick who had taken quite a tumble in expected value, as he had averaged only 17:38 icetime per game in 227 games with Anaheim, scoring only 49 points in 227 games. Bonino, on the other hand, was a 6th round pick out of Boston University who had climbed up the ranks, and was coming off a 22 goal, 49 point season at the time of the trade.

So if the Rangers retained approximately $2.5 million per year of Nash’s contract (making it a relatively identical cap hit as Kesler’s was), and attached their 2016 #80 overall draft pick? One could use this precedent in the Rangers, at the very least, in acquiring a 1st & 3rd pick, along with two relevant roster-ready assets.

What about, say:

Nash (~30% retained) and the #80 to Edmonton for the #32 & #62 draft picks, Nail Yakupov and Zack Kassian?

or

Nash (~30% retained) and the #80 to Colorado for the #10 & #70 draft picks and Nik Zadorov?

or

Nash (~30% retained) and the #80 to Anaheim for the #24 & #84 draft picks, Shea Theodore & Chris Wagner?

Comparing to the 2012 Ribeiro Trade:

Columbus Blue Jackets v Dallas Stars Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

June 22, 2012: Washington Capitals trade Mike Ribeiro to Dallas Stars for the #54 draft pick & Cody Eakin.

Yet again we are comparing a potential Nash trade to that of a center, which should be taken with a grain of salt. Ribeiro was about 6 months older at the time of his trade than Nash would be in the event of a deal this summer. However, the three-year arc of Ribeiro were fairly similar to Nash. Ribeiro, like Nash, had a No Trade Clause, but was only one season way from unrestricted free agency to Nash’s two. Ribeiro’s relative cap hit was 7% to the incoming cap, whereas Nash’s will be in the 10% to 10.5% range.

Click here for closer view

Eakin was a 21-year-old 3rd round draft pick center whom had improved production dramatically in the Western Hockey League after he was drafted, and was coming off his first pro season sharing time in the AHL & NHL. Essentially the deal was for a 2nd round pick and highly-valued prospect center.

So if the Rangers retained approximate one-third of Nash’s remaining salary, to make his relative cap hit the relatively same 7% as Ribeiro had, let’s plug that into the formula:

What about, say:

Nash (33% retained) to Detroit for the #46 draft pick & Andreas Athanasiou?

or

Nash (33% retained) to Winnipeg for the #36 draft pick & Nicolas Petan?

or

Nash (33% retained) to Carolina for the #50 draft pick & Warren Foegele?

Comparing to the 2013 Bolland Trade:

Columbus Blue Jackets v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

June 30, 2013: Chicago Blackhawks trade Dave Bolland to Toronto Maple Leafs for the #51, #98 & #117 draft picks.

Once again there are some fundamental differences between Nash and the comparison, this time Bolland; Nash is a winger, Bolland is a center. Bolland was five years younger than Nash is now, Bolland was only one year from unrestricted free agency to Nash’s two. Bolland’s relative cap hit was was an economical 4.89% to Nash’s projected 10.54%.

Bolland’s three-year trajectory was much more stable (a slight rise) than Nash’s now (more of a bell curve); yet Nash's quality is still superior:

Click here for closer view

If the Rangers retained 50% of Nash’s salary, making him roughly 5.27% of the incoming salary cap (much more comparable to Bolland’s 4.89% cap hit at the time), perhaps this module Nash could get a better selection of draft picks in return.

What about, say:

Nash (50% retained) to Toronto for the #29/#30 [depending on how Pittsburgh finishes in the Finals], #56 & #61 draft picks?

or

Nash (50% retained) to Carolina for the #13, #66 & #103 draft picks?

or

Nash (50% retained) to Ottawa for the #12, #72 & #79 draft picks?

A Deeper Look Into Liquidating Nash into Draft Picks:

Last summer I graphed all trades from 2005-2014 which featured Team A trading two draft picks to Team B for a single, better draft pick. The idea being trying to produce a historic measuring stick for how much “trading up” in the draft theoretically costs. In the graph above, the 'flop' is the best draft pick, where two lesser draft picks, the 'turn' and 'river', were traded for it.

So if the Rangers can find a trade partner where both sides (rightfully) treat Rick Nash as a single premium draft pick, perhaps this could signify a somewhat predictive return.

What about, say:

Nash (X salary retained & treated as an early 1st round draft pick) to Nashville for the #17 & #47 draft picks?

or

Nash (X salary retained & treated as an early 1st round draft pick) to Colorado for the #10 & #40 draft picks?

or

Nash (X salary retained & treated as a mid 1st round draft pick) to Detroit for the #16 & #46 draft picks?

or

Nash (X salary retained & treated as a mid 1st round draft pick) to Toronto for the #29/#30 & #56 draft picks?

or

Nash (X salary retained & treated as a late 1st round draft pick) to Montreal for the #39 & #45 draft picks?

or

Nash (X salary retained & treated as a late 1st round draft pick) to Calgary for the #35 & #53 draft picks?

Conclusion

There are an infinite ways the Rangers could deal with Nash. They could trade him for a package of lesser players, increasing quality for quantity. They could acquire prospects, draft picks, or some combination. Or, lest we forget, they could elect to simply keep him for next season. It's impossible to predict where things will go. Hopefully this gives a broad idea of what the options could be for the Rangers this summer.