By Brian Monzo
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It took me a couple days to put some thoughts together, a total assessment of Rangers general manager Glen Sather landing Rick Nash for Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first-round pick.
I’ve said many times that it was essential for the Rangers to add a quality goal scorer going into next season. We all saw what happened in the playoffs. The Rangers looked pretty weak despite winning two series and getting to the conference finals — two wins away from a Stanley Cup appearance. It’s safe to say that without Henrik Lundqvist in net, they would not have gotten out of the first round.
I’m not saying the Rangers are a bad team. They certainly aren’t. But from all my years of watching hockey, I’ve learned the key to winning is scoring more goals then the opposition. That seems to be the magic potion for winning games.
Everyone thought Marian Gaborik would be the solution. He has been good for the Rangers, but he is what I consider a ‘soft’ player. He has a ton of skill, but very few of his goals are scored because he out-hustled the opponent. He has natural scoring skills. He has a great shot, but he isn’t grinding along the boards and muscling his way to 40 goals. He is an asset, but not a complete solution.
Brad Richards is a premier playmaker and has a nose for clutch moments on the ice. But he was never brought in to score goals and a rapid pace.
Ryan Callahan can score 30 goals, but I am not sure that anyone looks at Callahan as a goal scorer. He does a ton of things, including scoring goals, but he is more of the heart and soul player — which has earned him the privilege of captaining the New York Rangers.
Youngsters Chris Kreider, Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan all present a ton of promise.
We saw Kreider in the playoffs, and he showed a ton of skill, but there is no guarantee he’ll turn into a top goal scorer. The potential is there, but it is my no means a slam dunk. Hagelin is a speedster with offensive upside, but scored zero goals in the playoffs. Stepan is a decent second line player with upside but scored just one goal in the playoffs.
Nash, at 6’4 and 216 lbs, brings the Rangers potentially what they were short of in the playoffs. A big body who can score goals in front of the net, or anywhere in the offensive zone. He has 289 goals in 674 regular season games, and is only 28. For the most part, he was only premier player in the Blue Jackets organization to put up any kind of offensive numbers. He has scored 40 or more goals twice and has hit the 30-plus goal plateau five times (seven total if you include the 40-goal seasons).
His vicious left-handed shot has left teams and goalies humbled since he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2002. When it finally became an option — Nash for Dubinsky, Anisimov, Erixon and a draft pick — Sather proved once again why he is perhaps the best GM in the league when it comes to trading players.
We all know the speculation: Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson was looking for Kreider, Ryan McDonagh or Stepan. As I’ve stated before, I wouldn’t have traded Kreider or McDonagh, but I would not have let Stepan hold up a deal for Nash. While I would have preferred keeping Stepan (which they obviously ended up doing), I would have been OK if he became the victim of a Sather trade.
You have to give Sather all the credit in the world. He waited… and waited… and waited… until it appeared Howson was off his reported ‘high demands,’ and was able to make this deal happen without giving up any of the Rangers’ core offensive prospects.
Dubinsky and Anisimov are two good young players, but it appeared they had run their course in New York. Dubinsky was not able to get his game going after signing a multi-year contract worth over $4 million per season and Anisimov showed glances of top line talent, but couldn’t seem to put it all together. Perhaps the best piece the Blue Jackets got was Erixon, a former first-round draft pick and a projected top pairing defenseman. He showed glimpses of what he is projected to be with the Rangers but they have an abundance of young defenseman, including drafting two last month, giving the team the option of moving him.
The argument about Nash’s contract was immediately made irrelevant when Dubinsky and Anisimov were both moved, actually saving a small amount of money in the deal. The Rangers traded around $7.9 million of contracts, and Nash makes $7.8 million for the next six seasons.
There is a good chance Gaborik will miss the early part of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, so having Nash allows the Rangers to balance out what they would be missing.
I know a lot of people were skeptical of bringing in Nash (for some nonsensical reason), but in the end the Rangers needed to make this deal to get to the next level.
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Will Nash = Stanley Cup? Be heard in the comments below!