Rick Nash is still the captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets, but that could change any day now if general manager Scott Howson can swing the trade that Nash so desires with one of the six teams he reportedly will go to.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, Nash, who has a full no-trade clause in his contract, has told Howson he would approve a trade to one of these teams: the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, San Jose Sharks, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings.
Howson is asking for a hefty ransom in exchange for the best player in Blue Jackets history. Nash is under contract for the next six seasons at a salary-cap hit of $7.8 million.
As we wait to see where Nash will end up, or if Howson will actually deal him (he's under no obligation to trade the franchise's all-time leading scorer), let's analyze the six possible destinations and how Nash would fit in. Of course, we're going to do this without any knowledge of who would be leaving town in a trade for Nash, but we'll take a look at some possibilities anyway:
Why pursue Nash: The Rangers' immediate need for Nash, who has scored 30 or more goals in seven of his nine seasons, is obvious with Marian Gaborik expected to be out until possibly December after undergoing shoulder surgery. Beyond that, the Rangers' need for Nash is obvious because, well, they already needed to score more. After averaging 2.71 goals per game in the regular season, they dipped to 2.15 goals in the playoffs -- and came up short in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Fit: Nash could work in New York because the Rangers have the centers in Brad Richards and Derek Stepan who could distribute the puck to him. While Richards playing with Gaborik wasn't exactly like putting oil in water, it also didn't bring out the best in either guy. Just speculating here, but it's possible Nash, a player who needs the puck, would fit better with Richards with rookie Chris Kreider on the left side.
Capology: Nash would become the highest-paid player on the team, but that would be the case for five of the six teams on his approved list (Pittsburgh has Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin making $8.7 million per season). The Rangers would be able to take on Nash's contract without having to give up salary in return, but odds are that's not what they would want to happen.
Who could go: The Rangers would likely want to include Brandon Dubinsky and his $4.2 million cap hit in the deal, but Howson clearly will need a lot more than a guy who had just 34 points last season, down from the 54 he had in 2010-11. Other names who could be in the mix include Michael Del Zotto, Carl Hagelin, Tim Erixon, Christian Thomas, and Ohio native J.T. Miller.
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Why pursue Nash: Questions linger about the health of Nathan Horton (concussion), so the Bruins could be in the market for a big-scoring right wing like Nash. Boston had enough scoring last season to finish tied for second in the League with 3.17 goals per game, but the power play was just average (17.2 percent). Nash had 19 points on a power play that was 24th in the NHL. That would have led the Bruins.
Fit: The Bruins already have a good group of forwards with Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand and Horton -- if and when he's healthy. If there are doubts about Horton, then clearly there is room for Nash, especially if one of these top-six guys would have to go to Columbus in the trade. However, you're talking about the core of Boston's forward group that led the team to a Stanley Cup championship in 2011, so general manager Peter Chiarelli may not be inclined to move any of them.
Capology: This is a problem because, according to CapGeek, Boston is already up against the $70.2 million salary cap. Chiarelli would have to move money to fit Nash in, but that means breaking up the core. The deal may work only if Columbus is willing to take the $5 million cap hit occupied by Tim Thomas, who is not going to play this season. The Blue Jackets would not have to pay Thomas.
Who could go: According to Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com, the names on Howson's want list include Lucic, Seguin and top defensive prospect Dougie Hamilton. Seguin and Hamilton are likely non-starters for Chiarelli.
Why pursue Nash: The Sharks need a jolt, a change of pace, something to jumpstart them because they are running out of time with their current core. Nash would give them another major scoring threat, taking some of the pressure off Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski.
Fit: Nash and Sharks captain Joe Thornton are good friends who have played together in international tournaments as well as during the work stoppage in 2004-05. They already have chemistry and would probably be paired together on the same line from the outset. Nash would also give San Jose a front-line right wing, which would allow coach Todd McLellan to use Martin Havlat in a second- or third-line role.
Capology: According to CapGeek, the Sharks have only $5.57 million in cap space with just 20 players signed, so clearly GM Doug Wilson would have to move salary out to acquire Nash.
Who could go: The Blue Jackets reportedly want Couture, but Wilson won't part with a 23-year-old center who already has two 30-goal seasons. Pavelski is an interesting candidate, but he scored a career-high 31 goals this past season and he's the Sharks' do-it-all forward. Gritty left wing Ryane Clowe is another possibility. If Wilson wants Nash he may have to show some flexibility, especially when it comes to Pavelski.
Why pursue Nash: The Flyers lost offense this offseason with Jaromir Jagr leaving for the Dallas Stars via free agency. It's interesting to note that Nash had only five more points than the 40-year-old Jagr this past season -- but Nash didn't have Claude Giroux as his center. James van Riemsdyk was also traded to Toronto for defenseman Luke Schenn, so clearly the Flyers have room up front and a need for offense.
Fit: It seems natural for Nash to slot in on the right side of Giroux and Scott Hartnell. That's where Jagr played and excelled, and could you imagine the power and skill that a Hartnell-Giroux-Nash line could provide the Flyers? That's to say nothing of adding Nash to Philadelphia's power play. Nash can be a physical forward, so it doesn't seem like he would have too much trouble adapting to the Flyers' style.
Capology: The Flyers have just enough room under the cap to squeeze in Nash, but they would have to deal some salary to get him so it shouldn't be a big problem for a team that is known to spend to the cap.
Who could go: Howson and Philadelphia general manager Paul Holmgren have worked a major trade before, but it didn't exactly work out for the Blue Jackets (Jeff Carter). Howson's want list now has to include Sean Couturier (the player the Flyers drafted with the No. 8 pick in 2011 that they acquired from Columbus in the Carter deal) and Brayden Schenn, but those young forwards may be non-starters for Holmgren. Erik Gustafsson, Matt Read, Wayne Simmonds, draft picks and prospects all could be available.
Why pursue Nash: The Penguins tried and failed to get Zach Parise, so clearly they feel they need to add a scoring winger into their top six. Nash, of course, fits that bill.
Fit: Sidney Crosby and Rick Nash together on the same line? It's a dream scenario that came true at the Olympics in 2010 (though it didn't work) and would for the Penguins if they're able to swing a deal for Nash. If you figure Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Chris Kunitz will start the season together, then Crosby needs a winger to play with him and Pascal Dupuis. Hello, Nash.
Capology: Pittsburgh has the room. General manager Ray Shero created space by trading Jordan Staal to Carolina. He was going to use his cap space on Ryan Suter and/or Parise, but didn't get either one. Slotting in Nash wouldn't be a problem.
Who could go: The Penguins have several prospects who could entice Howson, including defensemen Simon Despres, Brian Dumoulin and the No. 8 pick in last month's NHL Draft, Derrick Pouliot. It's unclear if any or all are untouchable.
Why pursue Nash: Though defense is clearly where the Red Wings are lacking now after losing Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement and Brad Stuart in a trade to San Jose, Detroit also lost Jiri Hudler to the Calgary Flames in free agency. They added Mikael Samuelsson, but Nash's offense and his big body are two attributes coach Mike Babcock covets -- and Babcock coached Nash with Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Besides, they also would be taking the best player off a team in their own division.
Fit: Nash wants to win, and he knows the Red Wings well enough after playing against them in the same division for so long that he would have to adapt to them in order to make it work. Assuming he will, picture in your mind Nash playing on the same line with Pavel Datsyuk. Doesn't that look like it would be a lot of fun to watch?
Capology: The Wings have cap space to burn and they've never been afraid to spend. They would have no problems fitting in Nash.
Who could go: For a Nash-to-Detroit trade to happen, you'd have to think that the Red Wings might have to give up more than the other teams involved because Columbus would have to see Nash at least six times a season. It's hard to fathom how much that cost would be, but Darren Helm might have to be part of the package that returns to Columbus. The Wings just signed Helm to a four-year contract.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl