COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Columbus Blue Jackets wound up pulling off the NHL Trade Deadline deal involving the biggest names. Only it wasn't THE trade.
SOG: 236 | +/-: -23
On a day of anticipation, hesitation and, finally, introspection for the struggling Blue Jackets, general manager Scott Howson's phone rang and rang Monday. He listened to multiple offers for Nash, a premier power forward who could bring enough in a blockbuster trade to accelerate a franchise's rebuilding effort by several years.
Howson talked, he said, to every team in the NHL during the past few weeks.
Still, Howson wasn't sold. So Nash wasn't, either, even though Nash -- no doubt weary of the losing he's experienced in Columbus -- asked to be traded about a month ago, according to Howson in his comments Monday.
"He approached us and asked us to consider trading him. We agreed to accommodate his request as long as we could get a deal that could provide us with cornerstone pieces that could help us compete for a Stanley Cup championship in the coming years," Howson said. "It did not happen by 3 p.m."
What did teams offer for Nash, a former 40-goal scorer who might be enough to turn a Stanley Cup contender into a Stanley Cup favorite? Howson wouldn't say.
What will it take to get him?
"Hey, the price was high and I don't apologize for that. The price had to be high," Howson said.
That price, Howson effectively acknowledged, went up as the Monday afternoon Trade Deadline approached.
"This is too important to our fans and our franchise to do a deal that is not in our best interests," Howson said.
Now, the next opportunity to fill Nash's trade request, if management decides to go that way, comes this summer.
Nash took part in the Blue Jackets' morning practice Monday, but did not talk to reporters once he learned he was staying with the Jackets. He intends to talk during the morning skate in advance of the Red Wings-Blue Jackets game Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena.
The question that will be asked for months -- even if a deal is done this summer -- is whether the Blue Jackets, who trail every team in the NHL standings by at least 11 points, were overly cautious by hanging onto Nash. After all, there were no other premier players on the market, and Nash might have yielded a king's ransom from a team desperate to add a player so skilled.
Or, by contrast, did the Blue Jackets shrewdly drive up Nash's market value for later this year, when teams won't be under the severe salary-cap restraints they are now, and might offer even more for the type of All-Star player who only infrequently reaches the trade market.
"I had many teams express there would be a lot more interest (this summer)," Howson said. "I think teams are reluctant for two reasons at this stage (to trade); No. 1 is salary-cap space and No. 2 is disrupting your team. This was going to be a significant trade if someone was able to pull it off and there were going to be disruptions to your team. So I think the market will be quite a bit looser in the offseason."
Not that the Blue Jackets didn't do a megadeal. The Jack Johnson-Jeff Carter trade last week with the Kings involved more big names than any other during an uncommonly quiet Trade Deadline period.
But the Blue Jackets lacked a deal-him-now-or-else mentality regarding Nash, who is signed through 2017-18 and, unlike many of the players who appear on trade-room radar screens around the deadline, can't become a free agent when the season ends.
The Blue Jackets aren't going anywhere in the standings, but their players are relieved that Nash isn't going anywhere, either.
"Right now, we're focusing on him being here, being on our team and being our leader," center RJ Umberger said. "He's a massive part of this team and our franchise and he's the one that everyone looks up to."
"It's the only place you can have a clear mind. When it's the last day, it's a little more difficult because of things that can possibly happen," Mason said.
Even if they didn't happen.
"Once this day is past, we can all move on and start trying to live more of a normal life," Mason said. "A lot of guys (players) have been talking about that. It's almost like they're being treated like pieces of furniture that can be moved and it's no big deal."
Only they won't be backing up the moving van for Nash.
The Blue Jackets may have shed Jeff Carter, Antoine Vermette, Sam Pahlsson and Grant Clitsome at or near the deadline in various transactions, but Nash is staying. At least temporarily.
Nash's talent is unquestioned; the former Canadian Olympian is having a down season with 21 goals and 22 assists in 62 games, but the former No. 1 draft pick has 280 goals and 251 assists in 653 career games.
Nash, 27, still can make a difference. Whether it's in Columbus, that remains undetermined.
"I still plan on winning here," Umberger said. "There's no such thing that says this has to be a three- or four-year thing. With pieces like Jack (Johnson) coming, some high picks coming, these are things than can turn your franchise around."