Blue Jackets’ GM Scott Howson widely withheld F Rick Nash from any trades at the deadline, wisely standing pat until his return price was met. Nash submitted a (albeit very short) list of teams he’d be willing to waive his no-trade clause for, but none of the landing spots were willing to meet Howson’s extremely high return package.
“Hey, the price was high, and I don’t apologize for that. It had to be high.”
Just how high was it? Well, according to reports, the Jackets were looking for a 5-asset package; a top-six foward, a package of high-end prospects and a 1st-round pick. The Sharks, not on Nash’s trade list, were beliveed to be discussing a deal for F Logan Couture, while the Rangers had a package involving F Brandon Dubinsky, D Tim Erixon, F J.T. Miller and F Christian Thomas; in addition to either D Michael Del Zotto or D Ryan McDonagh; and in addition to either F Derek Stepan or F Carl Hagelin; plus F Chris Kreider; plus a 2012 1st-round pick. Seriously.
The only thing that makes this situation worse is that Howson publicly admitted that it was Nash, who has a no-trade clause, asked for a trade himself in mid-to-late January.
“It took us a while to digest it. It took us a while to think about it, discuss it internally and then move forward with it.”
Howson did well to keep his biggest asset in Columbus–especially given that his job is believed to be in serious jeopardy–in fact, it’s a miracle in itself that ownership allowed Howson to make the decision at all, as he could simply have sold on whatever deal he was offered in order to salvage his job. Nonetheless, Nash’s potential suitors will come calling again at the late-June Entry Draft, where Howson, if he’s still in Columbus, will surely get someone to bite, despite his agent Joe Resnick stating the contract. By waiting until June, teams will have more flexibility to add Nash’s $7.8M cap hit to their payroll through 2017-18, while others will be looking to make a splash after an early-round exit or late-season collapse.
“I just think it was the right thing to do. It’s the truthful thing to do. We wanted to make sure everybody understood where everybody was on this issue because it’s a very important issue to our franchise, and I think things will continue to be amicable between Rick and the organization.”
This move may have backfired for the Nash camp, though–Nash remains under contract at $7.8M annually for the next six seasons before becoming a UFA in 2018 for his age-34 season, and the Nash camp has minimal leverage in the situation. He’ll either accept a trade somewhere, or be forced to play out the remainder of his deal.
But for now, Nash will be forced to captain a team he has no desire to play for, fighting their way for a future he has no intention of being apart of.
By the same token, who can blame Nash for asking out? The 27-year-old is entering the prime of his career, and as an elite NHL player, would be wasting away in an organization that seems to be constantly rebuilding. Nash has appeared in only four playoff games in nine seasons, and with professional athletes having such short shelf lives, I don’t think anyone can fault him for wanting to try and win a Stanley Cup, even if it meant leaving Columbus.
In the meantime, shedding F Jeff Carter’s contract for D Jack Johnson and a 1st-round pick was a solid move. Howson also got prospect D Taylor Ellington and two 4th-round picks for pending UFA F Sami Pahlsson, and a 2nd and 5th-rounder and replaceable G Curtis McElhinney and F Antoine Vermette. The only way the Jackets will be able to draw talent to their organization is to win, and the only way to win with their roster is to maximize their return for one of the league’s elite scorers. Ultimately, Howson had to do what was best for the Blue Jackets, not for Nash. And in that, he did a good job holding onto his most valuable asset.