Rick Nash's return is here, and the fantasy implications are huge.
Nash, a perennial 30-plus goal scorer with 300-plus shot capability, will be back in the lineup Tuesday when the New York Rangers host the Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN). The 29-year-old sustained a concussion on Oct. 8 in San Jose and had been sidelined ever since.
In three games this season, Nash compiled three points (one power-play point), five penalty minutes and nine shots on goal. Even after missing 17 games due to injury, he still has three-quarters of the season left to get his production back up to speed and pay dividends for your team.
Fantasy owners who either drafted him and remained patient during his recovery or bought low on him while he was out now can reap the benefits from a surefire top-40 overall asset who has four seasons of at least 10 power-play goals on his resume.
However, there are still two questions that loom at this point:
1. How quickly will Nash return to the top-six, PP1 mix for the Rangers?
Coming into the season, Nash was a highly regarded fantasy asset (Yahoo average draft position: 35.7). His dual eligibility (LW/RW), goal-scoring pedigree and near point-per-game production (21 goals, 21 assists in 44 regular-season games) were big reasons why.
Now, he not only needs to adjust to the style of his new coach, Alain Vigneault, but also avoid disturbing his team's chemistry. Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello have found their niche on a line with Derek Stepan, and Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin have also been productive after returning from their respective injuries.
Something will have to give, and it certainly won't be Nash getting bumped outside the top-six group once he returns to full strength. Nash reportedly will play on a line with Hagelin and Brian Boyle in his home season debut, but once he's back in the swing of things, the value of Zuccarello, Kreider or Hagelin is bound to take a hit.
2. Which player should you drop when activating Nash?
Fantasy owners must make room for Nash as quickly as possible, regardless of league size and structure. Whether or not your format allows you to insert a player into your lineup the day on which you activate him from injured reserve, it's important to prioritize league categories (i.e. points only, penalty minutes, hits, etc.), position eligibility and keeper value (if applicable) when making your move.
So, despite some tough decisions ahead for Nash owners, having him symptom-free and returning to your lineups is promising news -- especially if you've managed to keep your team afloat while he missed time.