‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
More Columns

For the past nine seasons, Rick Nash was the unquestioned face of the Columbus Blue Jackets.  After being selected 1st overall in the 2002 NHL Draft, Nash symbolized the growth and subsequent struggles of a young franchise trying to find their identity.

Nash only visited the playoffs once in his entire Blue Jackets’ career.  In 2009, Columbus couldn’t avoid a four-game sweep at the hands of the rival Detroit Red Wings.  Needless to say, a player of Nash’s quality deserved a better supporting cast and a change of scenery was long overdue.

Yesterday, the 28-year-old finally got his wish to join the New York Rangers — the team he hoped to join at the 2012 trade deadline.

Tom Petty famously sang, “The waiting is the hardest part.”  Nash’s long wait is finally over.  He’s officially a Ranger and now a member of one of the strongest, talent-rich teams in the Eastern Conference.

I had the opportunity to speak with the newest New York Ranger via conference call, available in its entirety at BlueshirtsUnited.com.

“I’m excited to open up a new chapter,” Nash explained to me on Monday.  He sounded like a weight had been taken off his shoulders.

Nash suffered through years of rebuilding in Columbus.  The Rangers present him an entirely new challenge — joining a talented group trying to get over the hump and into their first Stanley Cup Finals since 1994.

“I was very excited,” Nash said during the conference call.  “I’m looking forward to this opportunity and being part of something pretty special with the Rangers.  They already are one of the top teams in the league.”

He continued, “The players that they have is pretty impressive.  From goaltending, to the defense, right up.  I’m happy to be part of the organization and part of the whole city.”

Nash served four years as Blue Jackets’ captain and admires the way Ryan Callahan has handled the pressures of being Rangers’ captain.

“He’s done a world-class job,” Nash stated.  “I know first-hand, it’s not an easy job.  I’m sure it’s a lot harder doing it in an ‘Original Six’ city.  It’s very impressive to see what he’s done in a major market.”

“He’s a heart-and-soul player, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get a win,” Nash said of the Rangers’ captain.

Callahan included, Nash is intrigued by the talent around him in New York.  He didn’t get caught up in potential line combinations,  he’s just happy to be a Ranger.  With Marian Gaborik set to miss the start of the season, Nash could be paired with Brad Richards.  Derek Stepan could be another option.

“I have no idea what they have in mind,” he mentioned.

“In finding a team, I just thought the Rangers were perfect,” Nash revealed.  “I think they have an amazing team.  Last season, they were obviously one of the best teams.  It’s a great fit for my style and for me to play there.”

Rangers’ General Manager Glen Sather also participated in the conference call and was delighted to finally land Nash after a long, highly-publicized chase.

“This changes the complexion of our team,” Sather said.  “He’s a world-class player and was very excited to be coming to New York.”

“This quality of hockey player doesn’t come along very often.  This is a very important deal for our hockey club,” he explained.

The Blueshirts still have a lot of cap room available.  According to CapGeek.com, the Rangers have $13,391,666 remaining in cap space after the Nash trade.

Some of that money will be devoted to giving raises to restricted free agents Michael Del Zotto and Anton Stralman, but Sather will have plenty of cap room to add more talent through trade or free agency.

Sather met with Shane Doan last Friday.  He toured Madison Square Garden with Rangers’ personnel.  According to Sports Illustrated as many as 16 teams have expressed an interest in signing Doan.

Considering the cap space and trade chips available to Sather, Nash might just be the start of new recruits arriving at Madison Square Garden.

Are Nash and the Rangers a perfect fit?  Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.