Written by Austin Lutz
With only 23 games remaining in their season, the Columbus Blue Jackets sit at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, a place that’s been their home for the majority of the season. That being said, the Jackets are the biggest sellers this trade deadline, and the only thing Scott Howson has to look forward to this June is the possibility of adding top prospect Nail Yakupov.
Columbus seems set for another few years of rebuild and that’s not something that 27-year-old captain Rick Nash wants to wait for. He has not openly admitted to wanting a trade, but when asked about being traded, he said “Right now I’m a Blue Jacket.” The words “right now” tell it all and whether Nash is traded before the deadline or at the draft, he seems to be on his way out of Columbus
Many different teams have been linked to Nash, who brings a yearly cap hit of $7.8 million until 2018, but most often it has been the first place Rangers, the Maple Leafs, the Kings, and as always the Philadelphia Flyers.
The New York Rangers are thought by some to be the frontrunners for the services of Rick Nash, despite the “we don’t want you” chants by Rangers fans Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. The rumored cost seems to be some combination of Brandon Dubinsky, young defenseman Michael del Zotto (leads all Ranger defenseman in points and is only 21-years-old), top prospect Chris Kreider, and a first round draft pick. With Henrik Lundqvist in net, the Rangers don’t need to be the top scoring team in the league, but trading for Rick Nash shouldn’t hurt (except maybe their chemistry).
Brian Burke is in need of a center, is looking for a big winger, and met with Scott Howson in New York on Sunday. Rick Nash may not fill the top line center void, but he is 6’4” and certainly the best winger the Leafs could trade for. Possible return for Columbus could be young defenseman Luke Schenn, Nazem Kadri, Nikolai Kulemin, forward prospect Joe Colborne, and draft picks. However, Howson has been rumored to be looking for a top goalie prospect, which is something the Leafs lack and may keep them from getting Nash.
The Los Angeles Kings simply don’t score. Goaltender Jonathan Quick has been doing everything in his power to win games for them, but the offense hasn’t been showing up. Also, with young goalie Jonathan Bernier wanting to start, it may be time that he’s dealt. These are the reasons why Columbus could look to Los Angeles for the best deal. They could offer Bernier, defenseman Jack Johnson, young forward Andrei Loktionov, draft picks, and maybe even more. If Los Angeles is serious about making the playoffs, they may need to trade for Nash.
Scott Howson has attended a few Flyers games this past week and has had a few talks with Paul Holmgren about Nash, but the Flyers seem to be out of the Nash race for good. Holmgren feels that the price tag for Nash is too high, and it’d be hard for the Flyers considering their recent trades for Nicklas Grossman and Pavel Kubina that have pushed them up against the salary cap. Howson was looking for a combination of rookies Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, winger James van Riemsdyk, and draft picks. All-Star forward Scott Hartnell’s name has also been mentioned in certain rumors, but the Flyers have one of the top offenses in the league and at this point a trade for Nash is highly unlikely.
Despite, all the assets Howson could gain from a Nash deal, that’s not all Columbus has to offer this trade deadline. They’re also actively shopping center Jeff Carter, whom they acquired in the offseason from the Flyers for Jakub Voracek, the number 8 overall pick in the draft (Sean Couturier), and a third round pick (Nick Cousins). After a season of injuries and a possible attitude problem, Howson wants to trade Carter elsewhere. Although he most likely won’t be able to recover the talent that he lost in the trade, he feels it’s time for Carter to go. It might be a tough contract to trade though, because Carter is signed for $5,272,727 a year until 2022 and he’s injury prone.
The Kings and Maple Leafs may be interested in Carter if they can’t get Nash, and it will take much less to acquire Carter. Carter may be a better option for Toronto, considering he may be the center they need. On the other hand, there have been talks of reuniting Carter with old friend and teammate Mike Richards in Los Angeles. If they were accused of partying too hard in Philadelphia, just imagine what they could do in Los Angeles…It’s not a good idea for the Kings.
Columbus is willing to trade nearly anyone if they get the right return, and other possible fire-sale victims may be Derrick Brassard, Antoine Vermette, and R.J. Umberger. Brassard is signed for $3.2 million until he becomes a RFA in 2014, Vermette is signed for $3.75 million until 2015, and starting next season Umberger will be making $4.6 million a year until 2017. On top of all those big contracts, James Wisniewski, who was signed this offseason and is likely to stay, is signed for $5.5 million until 2017; also, starting next season, Fedor Tyutin will be making $4.5 million until 2018 and Columbus may try to move him too.
The Blue Jackets need to shed a few of these bad contracts in order to make cap room for their up-and-coming players to get new contracts, specifically Ryan Johansen, any prospects they receive in the trades, a new goaltender, and possibly for Nail Yakupov.
If Columbus trades Nash they almost have to get back a good young goaltender, and along with that they’ll be looking for a young defensemen that can contribute now, a few forward prospects who can help fill the future scoring void made by the loss of Nash, and of course a first round draft pick to go along with their probable lottery pick. A Carter trade wouldn’t net nearly as much, and they’d be lucky to get a first and a prospect because so far this year Carter has proved that he’s not worth it. This trade deadline, the team to watch will be the Columbus Blue Jackets because if any blockbuster deals are made, they will very likely be a part of them.