Rick Nash scored 30 goals for Columbus this past season and has reached the benchmark five years in a row. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
With the draft fast approaching, expectation is the Columbus Blue Jackets will attempt to move right winger Rick Nash and could even do so a day or two before the event.
This past Friday, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reported sources claimed as many as seven teams had contacted Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson expressing serious interest in Nash, while another handful of teams - Portzline believed three or four, maybe more - had kicked the tires.
The New York Rangers are considered the front-runner, as they're stocked with good, young players. Other teams thought to have interest include the San Jose Sharks, Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes.
Acquiring Nash will be an expensive undertaking since Howson's asking price remains steep.
Newsday's Arthur Staple reported Howson was seeking four or five major pieces, while Andy Strickland of St. Louis radio station The Fan 590 claimed the asking price was two quality roster players and two prospects.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post cited sources who confirmed Rangers GM Glen Sather is revisiting his interest in Nash and that he’s concerned over how his team's offense dried up during the playoffs.
According to Brooks, Sather's previous interest was killed because Howson was seeking a package of top prospect Chris Kreider, along with Derek Stepan or Carl Hagelin, Ryan McDonagh or Michael Del Zotto, as well as Brandon Dubinsky and a first round pick.
Sather is willing to part with Dubinsky and perhaps Del Zotto and Hagelin, but he won't give up McDonagh or Kreider and is unlikely to move Stepan.
The Brampton-born Nash would be a natural target for the Maple Leafs, whose management came under fire for not having enough Toronto-area or Ontario-born players on its roster.
The problem is the Leafs need a quality starting goalie and an established first-line center more than they need an expensive first-line winger.
Damien Cox of The Toronto Star believed the Leafs would pass on Nash in favor of pursuing Vancouver Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo.
The Flyers dealt with the Blue Jackets around this time a year ago in the Jeff Carter blockbuster, but they already have depth up front and need help on the blueline, so they seem an unlikely destination for Nash.
It's surprising to see the usually tight-fisted Hurricanes mentioned among Nash's potential suitors, but ownership has given GM Jim Rutherford permission to seek a top scorer to play on Eric Staal's line.
Two teams that aren't expected to get into the Nash sweepstakes are the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins.
While the Red Wings have the cap space (around $26 million) to comfortably absorb Nash's $7.8 million cap hit, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press believes they'll use those dollars to pursue Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter and/or New Jersey Devils left winger Zach Parise via unrestricted free agency.
Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com, meanwhile, suggested there are too many stumbling blocks – especially the asking price – for the Bruins to pursue Nash.
An intriguing notion would see the Blue Jackets ship Nash to the Canucks for Luongo.
The Jackets would finally have the quality No. 1 goalie they've lacked throughout their franchise history, while the Canucks would bolster their offense and make room for Cory Schneider to take over as the starter.
It's unknown if either team has considered that possibility. A major problem is both players carry no-trade clauses and we have no idea if Nash would agree to go to Vancouver or Luongo to Columbus. All it would take is one of them to reject such a move.
It appears Howson is keen to move Nash as quickly as possible in order to shift his focus to other roster needs.
This week is the best window of opportunity for a blockbuster trade since there's little depth in top talent in this summer's UFA market and teams are usually more willing to spend their available cap space for next season in late June and early July.
There’s no question there is considerable interest in Nash, despite his hefty contract. But how flexible is the Blue Jackets’ asking price and which teams are willing to pay it?
Rumor Roundup appears Monday-Friday 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, Kukla's Korner and The Guardian, Charlottetown.
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