Since February, Columbus Blue Jackets star forward Rick Nash has been the prize jewel on the NHL shelf for window-shopping GMs. Until this week, it was assumed that Nash would only agree to be traded to a handful of teams on his “preferred” list. But it now looks like other teams, including the Sabres, could get into the mix with the right offer.
Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Post Dispatch has compiled a list of likely destinations. Portzline’s list in order is as follows: 1. Rangers 2. Sharks 3. Maple Leafs 4. Bruins 5. Hurricanes 6. Capitals.
Several NHL clubs have contacted Howson, however, including teams that aren’t on the list of preferred clubs by Nash and his agent, Joe Resnick. If the Blue Jackets get a deal with one of the “non-approved clubs,” the hope is that Nash will relent and agree to the trade, simply as a means to get this chapter behind him.
Assuming that Pegula & Co could convince Nash to waive his no-trade clause (which we have no reason to doubt), the Sabres should go get Nash with an offer that includes Thomas Vanek.
Why it makes sense for the Sabres
Quite simply, Rick Nash is bigger, stronger, faster, and better than Thomas Vanek. He’s a world-class player with outstanding goal-scoring instincts and a huge frame. He’s a great skater for his size and can absolutely dominate a game with his ability. Nash doesn’t just score, he’s an all-around power forward and leader whose physical play and toughness would fill a huge hole for the oft-soft Sabres.
We’ve seen Vanek dominate games on occasion but the way he plunges into depression after missing a few consecutive scoring chances is disconcerting and too often becomes a scourge on team morale. And judging by his post-season comments, HDTV sounds like he’s ready for a change of the station.
Lastly, the Sabres may need to acquire Nash just to keep him away from Eastern Conference rivals. Adding Nash to the Rangers, Leafs, Bruins, Hurricanes, or Capitals may just shift the balance of power in the East and make it that much harder for the Sabres to earn a playoff spot next season.
Why it makes sense for the Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets rank no higher than 4th in the Columbus sports pecking order behind Ohio State Football (twice) and Basketball. Some degree of anonymity and a low-pressure atmosphere just might be a better fit for a player like Vanek. It’s a situation where a guy with his sensibilities could flourish.
More importantly, the Sabres have the picks, prospects, and players to build a package around Vanek to make an offer that Columbus GM Jim Howson simply can’t refuse.
That said, perhaps the best reason for the Blue Jackets to trade with the Sabres is as simple as cold… hard… CASH. Columbus will need to add salary to reach the cap floor threshold. In Thomas Vanek and Andrej Sekera, the Sabres have a pair of players with front-loaded contracts. This means that their cap numbers are higher than the amount of cash they will actually be paid by their team.
Vanek has a cap hit of $7.143 for the next two seasons but will only earn $6.4 million in cash. Sekera has a cap hit of $2.75 million but will actually earn only $1.75 million in the each of final two years of his deal. These are both attractive contracts for a cash-strapped team.
What it will take
Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reported that the Rangers were offering forward Brandon Dubinsky, top prospect forward Chris Kreider, and a first-round pick as part of a package to get Nash.
Rumors out of Carolina mentioned a similar package. “To get a player like Nash, it will take a huge hockey trade — in the Canes’ case, let’s say dealing a player such as Brandon Sutter, maybe their first-round draft pick this year and a top prospect.”
So if this is the current ante for Nash, how’s this trade sound?
Thomas Vanek, Andrej Sekera, & 2012 1st Round Pick (#21 from Nashville) for Rick Nash.