Rick Nash is the biggest name being floated in the rumor mill leading up to the Feb. 27 trade deadline. (Getty Images)
Is the trade market for Columbus star Rick Nash already shrinking?
Roughly a week after news broke the Jackets would entertain offers for Nash, most of the teams rumored to have interest in him are reportedly dropping out of the bidding.
During the “Hotstove” intermission segment on Saturday's Hockey Night in Canada telecast, Elliotte Friedman reported the Vancouver Canucks “weren't in,” the Bruins aren't willing to part with goaltender Tuukka Rask and prospect defenseman Dougie Hamilton, while the Rangers won't part with defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Michael Del Zotto.
The Philadelphia Flyers were another club rumored to be talking to Jackets GM Scott Howson about Nash. Friedman claimed one theory is that Howson is trying to push the Flyers to take Nash, after which he'd attempt to ship center Jeff Carter to the L.A. Kings, which would reunite Carter with former Flyers teammate Mike Richards.
TSN's Darren Dreger reported the rumored asking price for Nash - James van Riemsdyk, Sergei Bobrovsky, Brayden Schenn or Sean Couturier - was too high for the Flyers.
Nash would certainly add to the Flyers’ offensive production, but their problem is keeping pucks out of their own net, which explains their recent acquisitions of veteran defensemen Niklas Grossman and Pavel Kubina. Nash would do nothing to cut down on the Flyers' goals-against numbers.
Friedman also reported talk of Nash having a trade “wish list” was a misnomer. It's believed Nash provided Howson with a short list of suggested destinations, with an understanding if Jackets management found a trade they liked from a club not on that list, they'd go back to Nash to seek his approval.
That will broaden the potential trade destinations, but given the Nash's salary and Howson's huge asking price, it doesn't necessarily mean Nash will be moved by deadline day.
The Calgary Sun's Eric Francis reported “a lot of GMs around the league” believe it will take until the summer for a Nash trade to be completed.
The Toronto Maple Leafs remain one possible destination. Sportsnet.ca reported Leafs GM Brian Burke met with Howson on Sunday in New York, though Burke denied it was to talk about Nash, saying he was in New York on personal business.
But Burke is still in a position where roster upheaval is an option. The Leafs have dropped five of their past six games and enter this week barely clinging to the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Sportsnet claimed any return for Nash would include players such as Luke Schenn, Nikolai Kulemin, Nazem Kadri and “possibly” James Reimer.
The Leafs’ problem areas are similar to the Flyers (defense and goaltending), so, unless Burke is planning a separate deal to address those issues, acquiring Nash makes little sense right now.
At this point, it appears the Kings are the best trade partners for Howson to move either Nash or Carter. They've slid out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference and are in dire need of scoring punch.
Kings defenseman Jack Johnson is rumored to be available for the right price.
Johnson, 25, is in the first year of a seven-year deal with a cap hit of $4.4 million per and doesn’t have a no-trade clause.
It would be an extreme move by the Kings to move a top defenseman such as Johnson, but given their need for a top scorer he is their best bargaining chip.