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Rick Nash trade requires immense return

Rick Nash has a cap hit of $7.8 million that runs through 2018. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Rick Nash has a cap hit of $7.8 million that runs through 2018. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Rick Nash trade frenzy is in full swing and though we must always temper our emotions when such mania strikes (remember Vincent Lecavalier to Montreal in 2009?), it’s definitely worth exploring.

But here’s the thing: Columbus does not have to trade Nash before the deadline – or at all. And should the Jackets jettison their biggest star in franchise history, they must learn from the Ghosts of GMs Past and cast the widest net of trade partners possible. Then, GM Scott Howson needs to put the screws to whoever is willing to pony up for the talented right winger.

Joe Thornton and Jaroslav Halak are just two big names that will be forever linked to seemingly hasty trades where their GMs were accused of taking less than market value in exchange for expediency. Howson does not have the luxury of just taking what he can get. In fact, he has the luxury of being brutal in this situation. Nash is already signed long-term and does in fact love the city of Columbus. He’s not asking out of town.

So if, say, the Boston Bruins come calling, the ante begins with superstar junior defenseman Dougie Hamilton, drafted with a pick acquired from Toronto in the Phil Kessel deal. Burgeoning power forward Jordan Caron goes, too, plus some draft picks. Since the Jackets would want another roster player besides Caron, let’s add Benoit Pouliot to the mix.

Don’t want to lose Hamilton, Bruins fans? Too bad. Nathan Horton’s on the shelf again and your team is slumping, with eight goals in your past six games. Another Stanley Cup is possible this year, but it won’t be easy getting past the New York Rangers in the East.

The Blueshirts are another team rumored to be in the Nash hunt and though chemistry has been such a strong suit of the team, it’s hard to imagine any team that could take four out of seven playoff games from a squad featuring Nash, Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Henrik Lundqvist and a rock-solid ‘D’ corps. So again, if I’m Howson, I bring the hammer down.

Chris Kreider is a scintillating prospect with Boston College and though he may return for his senior year next season, his future in the NHL is looking rosy. Speedy rookie Carl Hagelin goes too, while the New York <i>Post put Brandon Dubinsky’s name in the mix to keep things realistic.

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With both Boston and New York there are cap issues, meaning a Wojtek Wolski may need to be thrown in to make it work, but that’s their problem, not Howson’s.

The most intriguing scenario is Florida, though there is the matter of whether Nash would waive his no-trade clause to go there. The Panthers are a playoff team right now and if Nash doesn’t like the glaring spotlight that comes with playing in a major northeastern city, Florida is the perfect foil.

The Cats also have oodles of goodies in their cupboard. I’d ask for Jonathan Huberdeau and Jacob Markstrom right off the bat and hang up the phone at the slightest indication of dithering. From there, one more prospect – either physical University of Vermont center Connor Brickley or two-way left winger Quinton Howden of Moose Jaw. A steep price to be sure, but the Cats lose nothing off their immediate roster and have one of the best pipelines in the NHL, so they can take the hit – plus the Panthers have the cap space.

From my observations of Scott Howson, he’s an involved GM. He does his due diligence and I can’t remember a prospect-related event where I haven’t seen him in attendance. Nash may be a Jacket for life and all this is irrelevant, but if the captain and Canadian Olympian does leave town, there better be a bushel of talent coming the other way.

Ryan Kennedy, the co-author of Young Guns II, is THN's associate senior writer and a regular contributor to THN.com. His column appears Wednesdays and The Hot List appears Tuesdays. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/THNRyanKennedy.

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