By Steve Silverman
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It had been one of the longest running soap operas in the NHL.
It started way back last winter, when Columbus Blue Jacket left wing Rick Nash decided he was sick and tired of playing for a team that had virtually no chance to win and his employers came to the conclusion that the team could improve by trading him and bringing in competent players.
There was dialogue between Columbus general manager Scott Howson and Glen Sather almost from the beginning. However, despite a desire on both sides to get a deal done, Howson seemed to have an edge to his negotiating stance whether he was talking with Sather or any other general manager.
Howson did not want to be the perceived loser in any deal. He didn’t want to get taken to the woodshed by Sather or any other general manager around the league.
He wanted to be the perceived winner in any trade.
As a result, nothing got accomplished before the trade deadline and the talks continued after the season ended.
Finally, the Rangers got their man as Howson finally realized he was not going to get a young star like Chris Kreider or Derek Stepan in the package. In the end, the Rangers traded two competent players and a prospect for a legitimate superstar in Nash.
Sather sent Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and young defenseman Tim Erixon to the Blue Jackets for Nash.
This is a move that fills a big need for the Blueshirts. The Rangers, of course, were the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference during the regular season. However, by the start of the playoffs, it was clear that the Rangers had an issue when it came to putting the puck in the net.
They struggled in that area and were not the kind of team that could score in bunches.
Sometimes you need to do that if you are going to be successful in the playoffs. They had Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards to put the puck in the net, but the Rangers were lacking scoring depth.
That’s why they were pushed hard by the Ottawa Senators in the opening round of the playoffs and pushed just as hard by the Washington Capitals in the second round. The Rangers needed seven games to beat both the No. 8 and No. 7 Eastern Conference seeds.
Head coach John Tortorella did not have enough offensive firepower to get past the Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Devils had found their game in their second-round victory over the Flyers and they never quit pushing. Led by Zach Parise, they had too much firepower for the Rangers.
The acquisition of Nash means the Rangers have more legitimate offensive options. Nash is a big man – 6-4 and 216 pounds – with sweet moves around the net. He can play the power game and drive hard to the net, but he has soft hands and can deke the goalie like few other players in the league.
Nash has scored 30 or more goals in five straight seasons and seven out of his last eight years. Playing for a championship caliber team like the Rangers should give him a new lease on life.
Nash had grown tired of getting beaten up emotionally in Columbus. Nash had worn a Blue Jacket jersey (sweater is an outmoded term, and we’re not in the Canadian hinterlands) since the 2002-03 season when he was 18 and he only made one playoff appearance.
The Blue Jackets were simply cannon fodder and Nash seemed to go into a shell much too often. If he is infused by playing on Broadway and doesn’t go into a shell, the Rangers will have a huge addition.
Nash is a power play machine. He has scored as many as 19 power play goals in a season and he has never scored fewer than six.
That’s music to Tortorella’s ears.
The Rangers are clearly one of the elite teams in the league. This trade makes them a legitimate favorite to win the Eastern Conference championship and get to the Stanley Cup finals.
Now all they need is a season. If negotiators don’t screw up the Collective Bargaining Agreement talks – and it appears they might – the Rangers will have the wherewithal to make their run.
With Nash, is anything less than the Cup a total failure? Be heard in the comments below…