It's official: The trade season is upon us.
While it was reported on the Fan590's Prime Time Sports by co-host John Shannon a week or so ago that Rick Nash had hinted that he wouldn't be opposed to a move out of Ohio, things really hit a fevered pitch today.
Yahoo! Sports kicked things off late last night with a report that Nash was on the trading block and then Aaron Portzline, a Blue Jackets' beat writer confirmed that this was likely the case, and finally, the evening was capped off with insider-royalty, Bob McKenzie speculating that the Leafs were likely among the teams on Nash's shortlist.
While one might expect that any fanbase that had an opportunity to see a star talent land in their hometown would be excited by the possibility, Rick Nash isn't without his warts. Reaction has been mixed among Leaf fans so we decided to put together a list of the pros and cons of chasing after Nash.
Big Talent, Bigger Contract
Rick Nash's present deal lasts another 6 years at a staggering cap hit of $7.8M. Not only is that pushing it in terms of the length of deals that Brian Burke finds acceptable, but it would make him the highest paid player on the team by a wide margin. As things sit today, the Leafs are up against it as far as the salary cap for next season is concerned and while there would undoubtedly be some money going out in any deal that would land Nash, we would also likely find ourselves out of the Grabovski sweepstakes.
Powerforward Wear and Tear
Rick Nash's production this year has been abysmal. With only 18 goals in 56 games, he's far from lived up to his plus-sized contract. While this may be attributable to the ineptitude of the Columbus roster as a whole, it's also possible that playing the role of powerforward in the NHL over the last decade (less one season spent at Davos) has taken its toll. Will he ever return to the form that saw him win the Rocket Richard trophy all those years ago?
Cost of Acquisition
We can only speculate what the package to land Nash would be at this stage but I think it's safe to say that it would be somewhere in the range of two NHL-ready prospects and a first round draft choice. How would Leaf fans feel about parting with Schenn, Kadri, and a 1st -- especially knowing that this would mean 5 consecutive first round draft picks have been dealt out of town to land Kessel and Nash? The price for Nash will certainly be steep and there will be some pieces dealt that the team landing Nash will wince to lose.
In Theory, He's What Our Forward Corps Lacks
Until this season, Rick Nash was the goalscoring power forward with size that Leaf fans have been moaning about for years now. Nash can score goals in transition or by smashing in rebounds. He's skilled, versatile, and would give us the trap-busting talent that we so desperately need.
A Move For Nash Thins The Crowd
While the cost of acquisition is a 'con', it's mitigated by the fact that our forward group is more than a little crowded heading into next season. Without making a trade, Kessel, Bozak, Lupul, Kulemin, MacArthur, Connolly, Kadri, Frattin, Colborne, and if we re-sign him Grabovski, are all likely best suited to top-six roles. In acquiring Nash, the Leafs will have undoubtedly thinned out that group while unassailably adding an upgraded talent to the wing.
He's Only 27
I know a lot of people will be concerned about paying for a past-their-prime player and Nash certainly has some hard miles on him for a man so young but it's rare for a high-level talent to become available much younger than his late 20s. Think of the fervor over Brad Richards last year -- or Kovalchuk the year before. These guys simply don't become available very often and when they do, it's a 30 team league. This may be a rare opportunity where we have a 1 in 5 chance to land a top 30 talent in the league.
I started the day in the 'nay' camp but I've ended it in the 'yea' camp. The tipping point for me is the logjam that's about to take root in our top-6. I believe that Nash still has plenty of game left and while I would expect that he'll probably start to see his production dip by the end of this deal, I think it's worth it. I understand that Nash's production isn't worth the $7.8M he's getting paid per season, but it's rare for elite players to outperform their cap hit. It's also rare to win without them. I'm wary of relying on Lupul to produce at the rate he has been thus far this year on a move-forward basis and Nash has been a reliable 30 to 40 goal scorer over his career.
Fortune, they say, favours the bold. It's a motto that the Habs organization has lived by. However, if we apply it in an intelligent way, rather than the way the mouth-breathers in their front office have over the past five years, it can work. There's no 'safe' way to get to the top; you have to take risks, and Rick Nash is a risk that I would take.