By Brian Monzo
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We are just under one week until the NHL trade deadline. The biggest question mark heading into Monday at 3 p.m. ET will be the destination of Columbus Blue Jackets power forward Rick Nash. Nash-sanity has officially begun.
The Rangers right now find themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference. They are having a spectacular season. They are a hardworking and gritty team. Top that off with an elite goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist and it would appear the Rangers are on the way to doing something very magical this spring. However, it's no secret they have a had a tough time putting the puck in the net, and their power play has been awful for the better part of the season.
The NHL playoffs are low-scoring battles. There's a very good shot that if the Rangers stick with that they have they may be able to go deep in the playoffs. But, if the price is right, and they can add the 27-year-old Nash, they have to make the move.
I'm not so sure people around here are familiar with Nash and his work. As much hockey as I watch, I don't find myself locked in on many Blue Jackets games. But I know one thing, there are very few power forwards like Nash out there.
He was drafted first overall in 2002 and immediately was thrown into the fire. He's scored 40 or more goals twice and 30-plus goals four times, and oh yeah, he's 6'4" and 215 lbs. Nash could be the missing piece, and the physical goal scoring punch going into the playoffs. The one downfall? He is signed through 2018 with a salary cap hit of $7.8 million per season. Ouch.
The question mark: How much will it cost the Rangers and their future (both with players and the salary cap)?
The key to making a deal like this is sending players and pieces that do not take minutes away from your top six forwards or top defensemen. There are some reports of the Blue Jackets looking for Michael Del Zotto or Ryan McDonagh. I'd really be shocked if either one of those players are moved, and I would think they are on the ''untouchable'' list.
Look, this is where fans to need think with their heads and not their hearts. This deal, if it happens, all but certainly will include Brandon Dubinsky. Dubinsky is signed for a few more seasons at $4.2 million against the cap. He has been a third liner for the Rangers, and his offensive numbers have slipped dramatically. He has done a lot of things right this season. He's a good penalty killer, he forechecks and plays with a ton of heart. He does a lot of things right. The fact is, you have to give something to get something. It's also a fact that Dubinsky is a replaceable player. Nash and Dubinsky are a wash, with Nash getting the advantage.
The next two pieces are prospects: Chris Kreider and Tim Erixon. Kreider is the Rangers best offensive prospect they've had in a very long time. He was drafted 19th overall in 2009. He has played three seasons now at Boston College. This season he has scored 19 goals in 32 games. Speed is his game, and some people believe he is a better skater than Rangers current speedster Carl Hagelin. There's no doubting Kreider has a promising future in the NHL. Still -- he is unproven in the NHL, and there is no guarantee that Kreider will be the player that Nash is.
We all saw a glimpse of Erixon early this season, and it was clear he wasn't ready for NHL play. Erixon, drafted in 2009 by the Flames -- traded to the Rangers last summer -- is considered to be a two-way defenseman. From what I've seen, there is definitely potential of him being a very good No. 2 or No. 3 defenseman in the NHL. The Rangers are stacked on the blue line. Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Del Zotto, McDonagh and 2010 first-round pick Dylan McIlrath should be the core of the Rangers' defense for the next decade. Erixon should be ready for full-time NHL action next season.
As per many of these big deals, the always popular first-round draft pick will have to be included.
Let's look at this way -- Nash and Dubinsky wash each other out. Erixon is expendable due to the Rangers' deep blue line. In reality, the only real pieces being lost are Kreider and the draft pick.
Looking at the salary cap, I'd be lying to you if I were to tell you that I was a math person and can work all the cap issues out, but here is what I can add.
Right now, the Rangers have about $1.5 million available in cap room. Dubinsky's salary of $4.2 million off the top would be a huge help. At the end of the season, Wojtek Wolski's salary of $3.8 million disaster is off the cap. Somewhere around $2.1 comes off the Chris Drury buyout. Throw in some of the players who may not be re-upped next season (Anton Stralman, John Mitchell, Ruslan Fedotenko, Jeff Woywitka, Steve Eminger) and that saves around $4 million. It's tight, but it appears there is some wiggle room.
They certainly can not give up the entire team. Like I said, Del Zotto and McDonagh can't be going anywhere. That would be a huge mistake. But if Columbus is looking for someone that could be a top six forward for them, a very promising forward and defenseman and another pick to continue to build, this deal fits those needs.
I know Rangers fans are very split on this one, but this is where I am.
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Rangers fans, who would you give up for Nash? Sound off below...
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