|Newly acquired Rick Nash will be under pressure to perform as a Ranger.|
Rick Na$h finally got his wish. The All-Star forward was traded today to the Rangers in a six-player deal with the Blue Jackets. Going the other way are Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, who were integral parts of the Blueshirts rebuild that saw them rise to tops in the East and the club's first appearance in the Conference Finals since 1997.
TSN's Darren Dreger broke the story before 3 PM, which was then reported by WFAN's Evan Roberts. Once it was evident that Nash was coming to the Big Apple, I actually guessed the trade. Along with Dubinsky and Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first round pick go to Columbus with the Rangers also receiving a minor league defenseman and a conditional third round pick to complete the transaction.
What remains to be seen is how Nash adjusts from life in obscurity to playing in one of the largest media markets. Outside of Montreal or Toronto, New York City is probably the third toughest place to play in the NHL. You're not under a microscope minute to minute like in Canada but the pressure is on the 28-year old former No.1 overall pick to perform. He's being brought in to add scoring help to a roster that will be without leading scorer Marian Gaborik for at least two months.
Unless Glen Sather overpays for Shane Doan, Nash will feel like he's still a Blue Jacket. Sure. He'll finally get to play with a true number one center in Brad Richards or previous deal breaker Derek Stepan. But when you look at our team minus Gaborik, there are no other proven scorers outside of Ryan Callahan, who maybe asked to play on the top line. I'm not sure I'd do it instead keeping Callahan with Stepan and Chris Kreider for a potential second line. The American trio had some success during the postseason, helping offset our top line's ineffeciency. Without Kreider, they don't make it past Ottawa. Now, the BC kid will have increased expectations before he even plays a second of a regular season game. It'll be interesting to see how he adjusts to a full 82-game schedule assuming there's no lockout.
Encouraging is that Slats was able to bargain Scott Howson down from untouchables Ryan McDonagh, Kreider and Stepan to a reasonable return of Dubinsky, Anisimov, Erixon and a number one. By moving both Dubinsky and Anisimov ($6.75 million), he was able to virtually offset Nash's hefty price tag ($7.8 million), leaving enough room to possibly add another player while re-signing key restricted's Mike Del Zotto and Anton Stralman. If it's Doan, it would be a natural fit with the proven vet capable of filling a void left by Dubinsky. I still think it's ridiculous to pay a 35-year old superstar money when he's no more than a 20-25 goal, 50-60 point player. If he wants four years at that price, let someone else have him.
I still like the idea of offersheeting Winnipeg's Evander Kane. The 21-year old is a budding power forward who just had his first 30-goal season. He should only improve. Don't forget that Gaborik and Nash won't be scoring forever. The Jets currently are around $51.2 million. Theoretically, they should have enough to get Kane re-signed. I don't see anything wrong with forcing them to match. I am not a fan of investing in 30-year olds to win a Cup. It worked once before but this is a different league. A younger one where it still is wise to have kids who can contribute throughout the lineup. On paper, we still have Stepan, Kreider and Hagelin with prospects J.T. Miller and Christian Thomas waiting in the wings. So, it's not completely bare.
When you assess Sather's offseason, he's addressed a huge hole by adding Nash. I still think subtracting Dubinsky and Anisimov hurts our overall depth. Brian Boyle likely plays with Taylor Pyatt and a question mark. Unless old Slats is back by bringing in Doan, who else plays on the third line? Arron Asham or Mike Rupp? Geez. An aspect that overjoyous Ranger fans will overlook is that the supporting cast was just as important as the featured actors. This isn't a Broadway play. At some point next season, Dubinsky and Anisimov will be missed along with Brandon Prust. Gone are versatile forwards who were a big part of our penalty kill, which might not be so easy to replace.
Boyle is still here and new addition Jeff Halpern probably will get some PK time. Pyatt's never really played shorthanded. Asham can but eh. The forwards who should get the bulk of the time are Boyle, Callahan, Stepan and Hagelin, who proved to be a threat due to his game breaking speed. My guess is John Tortorella will use Nash, who's done well scoring shorthanded goals due to his speed and reach. Richards will see time as well but shouldn't be asked to do it regularly.
If we're projecting lines when Gaborik returns, I doubt he and Nash will play together. Though a Nash-Richards-Gaborik top line is scary. Can the contrast in styles work? If Kreider can avoid a rookie struggle and Hagelin doesn't go over a month without scoring, the Rangers should be good. How good remains to be seen.