After two weeks of rising speculation, the Columbus Blue Jackets opted not to trade right winger Rick Nash at the trade deadline.
It wasn't for lack of trying on the part of GM Scott Howson. The New York Rangers were considered the frontrunners for Nash up to Sunday, backing out after Howson refused to lower his rumored asking price of a good young roster player, a first round pick and top prospect (if not more).
The Toronto Maple Leafs and San Jose Sharks also had interest in the Blue Jackets captain, but failed to come up with suitable offers to convince Howson to move him.
If Blue Jackets fans harbored hopes this would put an end to talk of Nash being dealt, they were dashed when Howson, in his post-deadline press conference, admitted Nash requested a trade rather than management asking him to consider it.
Howson said Nash made the request in January. “We agreed to accommodate his request as long as we could get a deal that would provide us with cornerstone pieces to help us compete for a Stanley Cup championship in the coming years. It did not happen by three o'clock today.”
He went on to say, “nothing's going to change” and that he and his staff will consider all their options heading into the draft this summer.
In the meantime, it's shaping up for an awkward finish to a miserable season for Nash, his teammates, Howson and Blue Jackets fans
Nash's desire to depart could leave a sour taste in the mouths of some Blue Jackets fans, who staked their hopes upon him for years as their franchise player.
Howson may be trying to paint his captain as the bad guy, but in the eyes of long-suffering Columbus fans, this will only increase their perception the front office doesn't know what it's doing.
Over the weekend, Nash's agent, Joe Resnick, maintained his client's list of preferred destinations – rumored to be the Rangers, Maple Leafs, Sharks, Boston Bruins, and Los Angeles Kings – would not change if he wasn't moved by the deadline.
The message from that is clear: Nash won't approve any attempt to move him to a team not on his list.
Resnick's remarks were aimed at forcing a deadline trade, but if the Nash camp sticks to that list, it won't leave many options for the Jackets when they try shopping him around the June draft.
It's possible, however, Nash might not have much choice but to widen that list, if his preferred clubs continue balk at Howson's asking price.
Still, the teams on his list could be more inclined to pursue him in the off-season.
They won't be facing the pressure of a trade deadline. The Rangers, Bruins and Sharks won't be worrying about possibly upsetting team chemistry late in the season.
If those teams are eliminated early from this year's playoffs, it could provide sufficient motivation for one of them to meet the Blue Jackets’ price.
The off-season is usually when teams have more cap space and are willing to use it to pursue star players. A new collective bargaining agreement on the horizon could have an effect upon that, but for someone of Nash's caliber, those teams might be willing to risk the unknown consequences and acquire him.
For now, the only guarantee is speculation over where Nash plays next season will carry over into the off-season, rising to another fever pitch between the end of the playoffs and the June draft weekend.
Rumor Focus appears Tuesdays and Thursdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla's Korner.
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