Rangers

Hartnett: Sather Strikes Perfect Deal For Rick Nash

Nash Gives The Rangers Their Best Offensive Weapon Since Jagr
Rick Nash (credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Rick Nash (credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
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The New York Rangers have landed 5-time All-Star winger Rick Nash in a deal that dramatically changes the balance of power in the Eastern Conference.

Darren Dreger of TSN reported Monday afternoon that the Rangers have acquired Nash, minor league defenseman Steve Delisle and a conditional 3rd round draft pick from the Columbus Blue Jackets for forwards Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, young defenseman Tim Erixon and a 1st round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

Should the Rangers make the Stanley Cup Finals, they will send the third round draft pick back to Columbus.  That’s exactly what Rangers fans will be expecting with Nash arriving on Broadway.

Remarkably, General Manager Glen Sather was able to acquire Nash without parting with his top organizational assets.

The Rangers have kept hold of young prodigy Chris Kreider, top line defenseman Ryan McDonagh, offensive-defenseman Michael Del Zotto, blossoming center Derek Stepan, two-way forward Carl Hagelin and top forward prospect J.T. Miller.

How this makes the Rangers even better:

Before acquiring the 28-year-old Nash, the Rangers were a 109-point team who won low-scoring games by playing sturdy, consistent defensive zone play and the sensational goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist.

They were able to make a deep run into the Eastern Conference Finals without consistent scoring.  With the arrival of Nash, the burden on Henrik Lundqvist to play perfectly between the pipes will be eased.

With Nash finally pulling on the Rangers’ sweater, the Blueshirts have added a whole new dimension to their roster.  Nash significantly improves a 23rd ranked powerplay that was lifeless and stagnant throughout the 2011-12 season.

Once Marian Gaborik returns to health, the Rangers will possess three scoring aces in Nash, Gaborik and the supremely-talented Kreider.  Nash has been a been a 30-plus goalscorer in five consecutive seasons and won The Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL’s top goalscorer in 2003-04.

With the players around him in New York, it is likely Nash will rediscover the 40-goal output he once reached in Columbus.

By adding Nash, the Rangers have made an offensive splash rivals will envy.  To equal what the Rangers have done today, their rivals will have to pay an inflated price to land Bobby Ryan of the Anaheim Ducks.

Keep in mind, the New Jersey Devils have lost captain Zach Parise to the Minnesota Wild.  Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins failed to persuade Parise to come to Pittsburgh.  The Rangers have also kept Nash away from the rival Philadelphia Flyers who were hoping to acquire Nash despite putting in a massive offer sheet for Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators.

What the Rangers are losing:

There’s no doubting that Brandon Dubinsky was a quality two-way forward who wore his heart on his sleeve, but he’s replaceable.  Dubinsky struggled to produce points during the 2011-12 season and will benefit from playing in a smaller market in Columbus.

The same can be said about Artem Anisimov, who was also popular among Rangers fans.  He will be given a larger role with the Blue Jackets and the opportunity to make good on his apparent potential.

Both Anisimov and Dubinsky will be missed, but their spots in the lineup can be filled by the Rangers’ free agent additions — namely Taylor Pyatt and Jeff Halpern.

While Halpern and Pyatt aren’t capable of matching the offensive production of Anisimov and Dubinsky, they are players who fit into John Tortorella’s defense-first principles.  Halpern is also an expert face-off specialist.

Scouts are split on whether Tim Erixon is blue chip defenseman prospect.  This season, Erixon registered a solid AHL point total of 33 points with the Connecticut Whale.  He is regarded as a promising two-way defenseman, but it remains to be seen whether he is NHL ready.

While Anisimov, Dubinsky and Erixon are solid pieces, Blue Jackets’ General Manager Scott Howson will be heavily criticized for not acquiring a better package in return for the former face of his franchise in Nash.

What to expect from Nash 2012-13 and beyond:

We all know the Rangers can take care of business in their own zone.  The key is — Rick Nash immediately makes the Rangers a lot more fearsome to opposing defensemen.

Nash gives the Blueshirts best offensive weapon they’ve had since Jaromir Jagr.  While 100-plus point seasons are unlikely, Nash can score goals in more ways than Gaborik as he has terrific strength in front of net.  He’s an elite power forward and will score bucket-loads of ‘garbage goals.’

His best offensive season in Columbus was in 2008-09 when he scored 79 points.  I fully expect Nash to eclipse that mark in his first season in New York.

Nash is likely to be paired with veteran, play-making centerman Brad Richards.  In his first season with the Rangers, Richards’ offensive production dropped-off to 66 points.  Richards and Nash will take pressure off each other and Nash will live up to expectations by scoring over 80 points in the upcoming 2012-13 season.

Nash is under contract through the 2017-18 season and is due a remaining $62.4 million dollars over the next six years.

The Rangers have pinned their hopes on the right kind of player, who is in his prime years and will continue to be an elite scorer for years to come.

How much better are the Rangers with Rick Nash?  Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.