Dallas, Columbus and Nashville among most 'comfortable' trade destinations for Rick Nash

ByESPN via ESPN logo
Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Morning Skate: What's the best destination for Rick Nash?

Greg Wyshynski: From the moment news hit that Rick Nash had submitted his no-trade list of teams to the New York Rangers, speculation has run rampant regarding the 33-year-old winger's trade-deadline destination. Having watched Nash play for the past few years, and knowing his personality a bit, I'd have to say that comfortability would be the most important factor in finding a successful temporary home for him.

To that end: The best landing spot for Nash is the Dallas Stars.

I'm not sure there's a better fit between team and player at this trade deadline. It's the kind of situation that perfectly suits him as a high-profile acquisition: Pressure, but not the kind of "savior of our Stanley Cup chances" pressure that he might feel in, say, a Canadian market; the chance to contribute offensively, but with the knowledge that Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn andAlex Radulovwill shoulder the heaviest offensive load for the Stars; and perhaps above all else, a relationship and mutual trust with Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock that extends back to their time together with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"He made me understand that defense is one of the most important parts of the game, and you get all your offense from a strong defense, and it's definitely changed my career," Nash said of Hitch in an interview withESPN in 2011.

Nash can slot in as a second-line left winger to instantly increase the Stars' scoring depth, play his game and help make a middling Dallas power play (ranked No. 14 at 20.6 percent entering Tuesday night) better. Meanwhile, the Stars have the picks and prospects to entice the Rangers, as Nash's availability should create a nice, tidy bidding war.

Nash to Dallas. Provided the Stars are on his "please trade me here" list. What say you Emily?

Emily Kaplan: I think Nash to the Stars makes a lot of sense, Greg. I certainly could see it. I could also see Nash helping out the St. Louis Blues or Winnipeg Jets or San Jose Sharks or Pittsburgh Penguins or ... OK, pretty much any team in a position to contend that might need one extra spark.

But the Blue Jackets just dropped their fourth consecutive game since the All-Star break, a stinging 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitalson Tuesday that coach John Tortorella called a "punch to the stomach." So I'm thinking that Columbus may need some trade-deadline reconfiguring in order to punch back. I'm also thinking about what you said, Greg: Comfortability would be the most important factor in finding a successful temporary home for Nash. Where would Nash be more comfortable than Columbus? He has played for Tortorella. He has spent more time in Ohio's capital city (nine seasons) than anywhere else during his professional career. He's the Blue Jackets' all-time points leader, and the franchise's first No. 1 pick and. Sure, the Columbus fan base has soured on him a bit since he was shipped to Broadway, but honestly, it would be a reunion that could warm any jaded hockey fan's heart.

Before you roll your eyes, first let me remind you that both the Rangers and Blue Jackets have new general managers since the blockbuster, five-player trade in July 2012 that sent Nash to New York. Let's also assess where things stand for the Blue Jackets. They have elite goaltending and a ton of exciting young talent, but haven't been able to sustain success after an impressive start to the season. The Rangers will reportedly shoulder some of Nash's contract in order to reap the most from the trade, and the Blue Jackets have some cap flexibility. (Their big decisions won't come until 2019, when they must figure out whether and how they can lock in Sergei Bobrovsky, Artemi Panarin and Zach Werenski).

When I visited Columbus' training camp in September, I asked Werenski how the Blue Jackets had changed over the past 12 months. "[During the 2016-17 season] we thought we might be good," he told me. "This year, we know we're good." I wonder how that confidence has been altered since his team has fallen into its recent rut. What I do know is this: Adding a Nash-caliber player to the lineup could do wonders to a team's confidence.

Chris Peters: Columbus was actually the first team that popped into my mind, Emily. I think that theory has some pretty decent legs. I kept coming back to a different team, however, that I think has what the Rangers would want in a deal and a desire to bolster a Cup-contending roster. That would be the Nashville Predators, who have one of the best deal-makers in the NHL in GM David Poile.

Based on reporting from TSN's Bob McKenzie, it appears the Rangers are seeking a first-round pick, a top prospect and perhaps a sweetener of some kind. At first, I thought that sounded like a hefty price for a rental. That's essentially what the Chicago Blackhawks gave up to acquire Andrew Ladd as the 2015-16 trade deadline approached, however, when they sent a first-round pick, a prospect (Marko Dano) and a conditional pick to the Jets. It's still a steep price, and that one didn't exactly work out so great for Chicago in the end -- even though it looked great on paper when the deal was made.

So how much would Poile be willing to give up for the sake of scoring depth? Striking gold last year with the 30th overall pick to land Eeli Tolvanen might make the Predators a little more willing to part with that first-round pick for this year's draft. After shedding both Samuel Girard and Vladislav Kamenev in the deal that landed them Kyle Turris, however, Nashville has already dipped into its prospect pool once in a significant way. If Poile can find a deal that doesn't include a top prospect -- Tolvanen and defenseman Dante Fabbro are the top players in the system -- it'd be more palatable.

The Predators aren't desperate for scoring depth at this point, but it would absolutely help. Additionally, Nash isn't a redundant player in their lineup. At 6-foot-4 and 211 pounds, he has size and the high-level scoring instincts that would make Nashville an even tougher matchup among its middle-six forwards. If the Predators weren't so well set for multiple years with their core, they would think twice about moving some pieces for a rental. But they have every reason to believe they're among the top contenders for the Stanley Cup -- and this could potentially nudge them closer. Acquiring Nash is one of the moves I think Nashville has to at least strongly consider if it does anything beyond luring Mike Fisher out of retirement.