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Nash to Rangers: The case for and against

Wednesday, 02.22.2012 / 6:05 PM / 2012 Trade Deadline

By Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Nash to Rangers: The case for and against
Dave Lozo's attempt to talk himself into the merits of the Rangers' acquisition of Rick Nash, as well as the arguments against such a move.
NHL.com writer Dave Lozo, who covers the Rangers, has heard all the talk about Columbus forward Rick Nash being a trade target of the New York Rangers. In fact, the pros and cons of such a move have kept him up more than one night since the whispers began. Here, then, is his attempt to talk himself into the merits of the acquisition, as well as the arguments against such a move:

Now IS the time to add Nash   Now is NOT the time to add Nash
     
The New York Rangers desperately need to acquire Rick Nash before the trade deadline in order to make themselves legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup.

Through 58 games, the Rangers hold a commanding seven-point lead in the Eastern Conference. Based on points percentage, they are the No. 1 team in the NHL.

Just imagine how much more dangerous they would be if they added an elite talent to the mix like Nash, who reportedly has the Rangers, Sharks, Bruins, Canucks and Maple Leafs on his list of teams for which he'd waive his no-trade clause.

The Rangers are the second-best defensive team in the NHL, allowing less than two goals per game. But offensively, they could use some help. They rank 11th in the League in goals per game, and the last team to win the Stanley Cup while finishing outside the top 10 in scoring was the New Jersey Devils when they scored the 14th most goals during the 2002-03 season.

Gaborik
The 27-year-old Nash is a perennial 30-goal scorer who has topped 40 goals twice in his career. Placing him on a line with either Marian Gaborik or Brad Richards would make the Rangers far more explosive at both 5-on-5 and on the power play. Since 2005, the Ducks' seventh-place finish in goals scored in 2006-07 is the lowest of any Stanley Cup winner, so offense matters.

One of the rumored packages believed to be necessary to acquire Nash would require the Rangers dealing Brandon Dubinsky, Michael Del Zotto or Ryan McDonagh, prospect Chris Kreider and a first-round pick.

That may seem like way too much to give up in order to get Nash, but it would be worth it for the Rangers.

Dubinsky has drawn the ire of fans after signing a four-year, $16.8 million deal over the summer and producing just 6 goals and 19 assists after a career 2010-11 season. The 25-year-old has been relegated to third-line minutes and having his cap hit in the deal is one of the few ways the Rangers can take back Nash's $7.8 million cap hit.

Del Zotto
There's no denying Del Zotto and McDonagh are terrific young defensemen with bright futures, but the Rangers are so loaded at the position that they have Marc Staal playing on the third pairing. By dealing either Del Zotto or McDonagh, it allows Staal to see more ice time and Jeff Woywitka, who is a fine No. 6 blueliner, gets back in the lineup.

Kreider is one of the game's top prospects, perhaps a future top-six forward in the NHL. The 20-year-old is 6-foot-3, 225 pounds and a junior at Boston College, where he has 19 goals and 17 assists in 32 games this season. He's arguably the Rangers' No. 1 prospect, but the sport is littered with top prospects who didn't pan out. Will Kreider ever play at the level of Nash, who is just entering his prime? Probably not.

As for the first-round pick, it will likely be a very late one at this year's draft. Once a team gets outside the top 10, it's very difficult to land a sure thing.

A knock on Nash's game has been lack of attention to the defensive side of the game. Nash is a minus-23 this season and a minus-75 career, but how much of that is about his individual play and how much of it has to do with playing on teams that have missed the playoffs in seven of his eight seasons?

None of that matters, as the Rangers' John Tortorella is the perfect coach to motivate Nash and mold him into someone who is much tougher in his own zone.

Rangers GM Glen Sather has changed his approach since the work stoppage, showing patience in developing home-grown talent through the draft (Staal, Del Zotto and Dubinsky are just a few examples) and letting those players evolve with the big club over the past three years. The group has grown together and developed an undeniable chemistry.

An inevitable part of pro sports are players leaving a team, and there's nothing wrong with dealing away some of that core right now for someone as special as Nash. The locker room is strong enough to withstand the tinkering with the all-important team chemistry that would be affected with the addition of Nash.

Sure, Sather could once again show patience and pass on acquiring Nash, but this Rangers team that is clearly ahead of schedule might not have a better chance at a championship than the one it has now.

Callahan
Bringing Nash into the fold also means bringing his $7.8 million cap hit through 2017-18 into the fold. That could make the re-signing of Marian Gaborik, Ryan Callahan and Henrik Lundqvist, all free agents after 2013-14, quite difficult, but not impossible. Sather could very easily sign all four and have quite the dangerous foursome through 2018.

Yes, that would make it harder to surround those stars with the role players the Rangers have now, but it's a lot easier to find pluggers than it is unique talents like Nash. When a championship is within reach in the present, it doesn't make sense to worry about problems more than three years down the road.

The Rangers are a top team, but Nash would put them over the top by giving them the missing offense that's a necessity in the postseason. The time is now in New York, and the Rangers need to push all their chips into the middle.
  The New York Rangers do not need to acquire Rick Nash before the trade deadline in order to make themselves legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup.

Through 58 games, the Rangers hold a commanding seven-point lead in the Eastern Conference. Based on points percentage, they are the No. 1 team in the NHL.

Why would a team this dangerous need to add a player like Nash -- who reportedly has the Rangers, Sharks, Bruins, Canucks and Maple Leafs on his list of teams for which he'd waive his no-trade clause -- to the mix?

The Rangers are the second-best defensive team in the NHL, allowing less than two goals per game. But offensively, they could use some help. They rank 11th in the League in goals per game, and the last team to win the Stanley Cup while finishing outside the top 10 in scoring was the New Jersey Devils when they scored the 14th most goals during the 2002-03 season.

Defense wins championships, and the Rangers have it in spades. The 27-year-old Nash is known for his offense, not for his two-way play. The Rangers already have two players who will likely finish the season with 30 goals, making Nash more of a luxury than a necessity. The Bruins proved last season an elite defense can overcome a shoddy power play, two things the Rangers have had all season.

McDonagh
One of the rumored packages believed to be necessary to acquire Nash would require the Rangers dealing Brandon Dubinsky, Michael Del Zotto or Ryan McDonagh, prospect Chris Kreider and a first-round pick.

That may seem like way too much to give up in order to get Nash, but that's only because it is.

Dubinsky has drawn the ire of fans after signing a four-year, $16.8 million deal over the summer and producing just 6 goals and 19 assists after a career 2010-11 season. But the 25-year-old has worked hard throughout his struggles and has been part of an effective checking third line with Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust. Dubinsky is also a key part of the Rangers' fifth-ranked penalty kill; Nash is barely used when his team is shorthanded.

Del Zotto and McDonagh are terrific young defensemen with bright futures and shouldn't be traded no matter what. Del Zotto is 21 and McDonagh is 22, but both look like seasoned veterans who will be top-four defensemen for the next decade. Young defensemen who figure things out this quickly are a rare commodity. Dealing either one would press Marc Staal, who is still rounding into form after missing the first 36 games of the season with a concussion, into a top-four role. The blue line is the foundation of this team, and shaking it up with six weeks left in the season would be a risk not worth taking.

Kreider is one of the game's top prospects, perhaps a future top-six forward in the NHL. The 20-year-old is 6-foot-3, 225 pounds and a junior at Boston College, where he has 19 goals and 17 assists in 32 games this season. He's arguably the Rangers' No. 1 prospect, and he should be considered untouchable.

As for the first-round pick, it will likely be a very late one at this year's draft, but that doesn't mean a valuable player can't be had at that point. Some examples include Max Pacioretty (22nd, 2007), David Perron (26th, 2007), Claude Giroux (22nd, 2006) and James Neal went 33rd in 2005.

A knock on Nash's game has been lack of attention to the defensive side of the game. Nash is a minus-23 this season and a minus-75 career, but how much of that is about his individual play and how much of it has to do with playing on teams that have missed the playoffs in seven of his eight seasons?

Rangers coach John Tortorella has spoken at length about the "identity" of his team, one of a hard-working, grinding squad that always strives to outwork the opposition. It would be extremely difficult to get Nash to adapt to that system in such a short period of time.

Dubinsky
Rangers GM Glen Sather has changed his approach since the work stoppage, showing patience in developing home-grown talent through the draft (Staal, Del Zotto and Dubinsky are just a few examples) and letting those players evolve with the big club over the past three years. The group has grown together and developed an undeniable chemistry.

Messing with that chemistry now would be a huge mistake. This up-and-coming group, one of the youngest in the NHL, should be allowed to see how far they can take the Rangers in the playoffs before anything drastic is done. The Rangers have nearly everyone under contract for next season, so if the Rangers find a way to win a title, they can have everyone back; if they don't, they'll still have all the same pieces to deal for Nash in the summer.

Bringing Nash into the fold also means bringing his $7.8 million cap hit through 2017-18 into the fold. That could make the re-signing of Marian Gaborik, Ryan Callahan and Henrik Lundqvist, all free agents after 2013-14, almost impossible. With the way Callahan is progressing, the team's captain will likely command a raise over his $4.275 million salary. Lundqvist makes $6.875 million and could also see a bump in pay. Gaborik's cap hit is $7.5 million, and who's to say he couldn't ask for that again?

The Rangers are a top team, but there's no guarantee that a luxury like Nash can put them over the top. The future is bright in New York, whether it's four months from now or four years from now. There's no need for the Rangers to go all-in.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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