Rick Nash wants out of Columbus, but the team won't rush a deal just to get it done. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH – It appears the specter of Bobby Ryan of the Anaheim Ducks being on the trade market once again has gummed up the works when it comes to the much-anticipated Rick Nash Trade SweepstakesTM.
“That was not good news,” said one Columbus staff member Thursday afternoon.
This much we know. Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson met with Nash’s agent, Joe Resnick, the day before the draft. We also know that Resnick and the Nash camp are eager to have this matter put to bed soon, this weekend if possible. We know that Howson is fielding offers, but has waited this long to trade the franchise’s only true superstar player and will not be pressured into a premature transaction just for the sake of making a deal.
And most importantly, we know that Nash’s list of approved teams, as it stands, is now at seven teams – the New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, San Jose Sharks, Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. There was speculation the Toronto Maple Leafs were on the list at one time, but they are no longer on it.
What we don’t know is a much longer list. For example, what will happen if the Blue Jackets find their best deal with a team that is not on Nash’s list of desired destinations? (The Ottawa Senators are rumored to be offering a package containing prospect Mika Zibanejad and goaltender Ben Bishop.) Do the Blue Jackets then tell Nash to accept that deal or stay in Columbus? Will the market for Nash widen after July 1 when Zach Parise’s fate is decided?
(On that front, if Parise makes it to July 1, expect the Detroit Red Wings and Minnesota Wild to be the most ardent pursuers of both him and Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter. Both teams are believed to covet both players and have the cap space to make it happen. In fact, don’t be shocked if Suter’s negotiating rights are dealt this weekend. Parise’s agent, meanwhile, will meet with Devils GM Lou Lamoriello next week.)
Most of all, though, what effect does the presence of Ryan on the trade market have on the Nash situation? The Anaheim Ducks are not believed to be aggressively shopping Ryan, but they are getting a lot of interest from the same teams that are interested in Nash. The only question is whether that interest is in the form of a safety net should they not get Nash or a Plan A instead of Nash.
And if you could get Ryan, why would you not seriously consider it? Is he as good a player as Nash? That’s debatable. But he’s three years younger and has a much more financially friendly deal with a $5.1 million cap hit each of the next three seasons, as opposed to the $7.8 million hit any team acquiring Nash would have to absorb for the next six.
Hence the speculated interest from the Flyers for Ryan, a native of nearby Cherry Hill, N.J., who was mentored by former Flyers GM Bob Clarke when he was growing up.
Howson and Resnick met for about an hour Thursday afternoon, but Howson said a resolution to the Nash matter was not imminent. But that talk is expected to heat up as the draft approaches Friday evening. Howson said Thursday night he was no closer to moving Nash than he was at the trade deadline, but said he now has more options.
“I think there are more legitimate possibilities right now,” Howson said.
Another interesting back-story concerning the Blue Jackets is what they will do with the second overall pick. There is growing speculation the Edmonton Oilers will opt for defenseman Ryan Murray and not consensus No. 1 overall pick Nail Yakupov with the first pick. For his part, Oilers GM Steve Tambellini said the team’s scouts have not deviated from the player they thought was No. 1 from the midway point of the season.
Should the Oilers take Murray, the Blue Jackets will have the opportunity to land Yakupov, but there’s still this sense that with its history surrounding Russian players, Columbus can’t afford to take Yakupov. (From this corner, that kind of thinking would be a mistake.) The thought is the Blue Jackets would trade down a few spots and take a player such as defenseman Griffin Reinhart, speculation Howson did not exactly toss water upon when he spoke Thursday. He said there is interest in the second pick, interest that will surely intensify if Yakupov is still available when the Blue Jackets take their turn.
“We’re not interested in moving up (to No. 1),” Howson said. “We’re going to stay at No. 2 or move back. There are a few possibilities in terms of us moving back, so we’re going to look at that and see if that’s something we want to do. If we stick at No. 2, we’re pretty confident in the player we’re going to take.”
The other main domino to fall when it comes to the trade market is Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo. Canucks assistant GM Laurence Gilman said GM Mike Gillis has been receiving offers for both Luongo and backup Cory Schneider, although nobody expects Schneider to be moved.
“Anything is possible,” Gilman said, “including the possibility of going forward with both goaltenders being here. Everyone seems to think it’s a pre-ordained thing that somebody is going, but that scenario does exist as well.”
Luongo might not be moved this weekend, but many in NHL circles would be shocked if he weren’t traded soon, with the Maple Leafs being the most likely destination. It all makes for a weekend where the drama concerning trades could usurp anything that happens on the draft floor.