Rick Nash is a New York Ranger. Finally.
In a deal that has been brewing since February, the Columbus Blue Jackets traded their captain to the Rangers on Monday along with defenseman Steven Delisle and a conditional third-round selection in the 2013 NHL Draft in exchange for forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, defenseman Tim Erixon and the Rangers' first-round selection in the 2013 Draft.
If the Rangers advance to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, Columbus will retain its third-round pick.
Nash waived his no-move clause prior to the trade. The trade is conditional on all players passing a physical by 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
"There was a lot of limbo for sure," Nash said. "It was a tough time and a tough period of five months. But the thing now is it's over and I can look forward to next year."
NASH TRADED TO RANGERS
Jackets hope to rebuild with haulBy Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer
With the former face of the franchise heading to the New York Rangers, GM Scott Howson has started to reshape the Columbus Blue Jackets' roster and hopes the pieces he got back for Rick Nash will be good fits. READ MORE ›
"We're happy to have a five-time All-Star on our team and a 40-goal scorer and a guy that's only 28 years old," Rangers general manager Glen Sather said. "He's one of the better goal scorers in the National Hockey League and he'll help us immensely. These things take a long time to get negotiated. It takes a long time for a team that's trading a player like this. I'm sure it was very difficult for (Jackets GM) Scott (Howson) to make the decision to trade him. I think it's a fair trade for both sides."
Once word leaked in February that Nash wanted out of Columbus, it seemed inevitable that he would land in New York. The Rangers had the right pieces, the need for offense and the salary-cap room to take on Nash's big contract, but a deal could not be struck before the trade deadline.
The sides were close to a deal before the deadline, but one of the sticking points was believed to be Chris Kreider, whom the Rangers refused to include in any package for Nash. Kreider was with Boston College at the time but signed with the Rangers before the Stanley Cup Playoffs and was a major contributor during New York's run to the Eastern Conference Finals.
But from the start, Nash always wanted to land with the Rangers.
"Initially, I went in with Scott Howson and was trying to get a game plan on what was going on with Columbus and I was told there was going to be a rebuild," Nash said. "I've been here for nine years now and figured I could be the main piece of a rebuild for them in that case. If the circumstance was right, I'd waive my no-trade clause and help them rebuild and help my career carry on.
"In finding a team, I thought the Rangers were perfect. I think they have an amazing team. Last season, they were obviously one of the best teams. I think it was a great fit for my style and to play there."
Since his first year in the League as an 18-year-old in 2002-03, Nash has never scored fewer than 27 goals in a season. The 6-foot-4, 219-pound Nash, now 28, is coming off a 30-goal season and has averaged 33 goals per season since 2005-06. He has 289 goals in 674 games, all with the Blue Jackets.
Along with his goal-scoring touch, Nash brings a hefty contract and very little playoff experience. He carries a $7.8 million cap hit during each of the next six seasons, the fifth-highest in the League. The Blue Jackets made the playoffs once in Nash's nine seasons; Nash had a goal and two assists in four games as Columbus was swept in the first round by the Detroit Red Wings in 2009.
Nash was a member of Canada's gold-medal team at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, posting two goals and three assists in seven games.
For the Jackets, the acquisition of Dubinsky, Anisimov and Erixon is the latest move by Howson to retool a team that finished last in the standings last season. In February, the Jackets added defenseman Jack Johnson in a deal with the Kings that shuttled Jeff Carter to Los Angeles and they added goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and forward Nick Foligno this summer.
Dubinsky, 26, is coming off a nightmare season for the Rangers. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound forward who can play both center and wing had 24 goals and 30 assists in 2010-11, both career highs. That season earned Dubinsky a four-year, $16.8 million contract in the summer that followed, but he failed to live up to it last season, when he had 10 goals and 24 assists in 77 games.
Anisimov, 24, had 16 goals and 20 assists in 79 games last season. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder had a career-best 18 goals and 26 assists in 82 games two seasons ago and may have the most potential of anyone the Jackets received in this trade.
Erixon was unable to win a spot with Rangers despite numerous openings along the blue line due to injury last season. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound 21-year-old had two assists in 18 games with the Rangers but had three goals and 30 assists in 52 games with the Connecticut Whale of the AHL. Erixon was acquired from Calgary last summer after the Flames were unable to sign him.
The Rangers struggled offensively last season, finishing in the middle of the pack in goals scored. That area took a big hit during the postseason when it was revealed that leading scorer Marian Gaborik needed surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder during the summer and would be out until possibly December.
Sather said neither the loss of Gaborik nor the Flyers signing defenseman Shea Weber to an offer sheet had anything to do with trading for Nash.
"I tried to make the deal at the trade deadline," Sather said. "We weren't successful at that time but over the next three months we were able to put the trade together. Losing Gaborik is still a big hurt for our team at this point in time, but Gaborik is going to be back. He's training hard; he's a very well-conditioned athlete. He's going to be just fine. That wasn’t the reason we made the deal for Nash. The reason we made the deal for him is because he's a terrific player. He's a great goal scorer and wanted to come to New York. He has the right attitude about playing in New York. I just felt it was a deal we couldn’t turn down."
The Rangers may not be done in free agency. The team reportedly had talks with forward Shane Doan, who has visited in the team's training facility in Greenburgh, N.Y. The Rangers have 12 forwards signed for next season, but they have about $13 million in cap space, according to Capgeek.com.
Sather wouldn't speak specifically about Doan, but said the Rangers have room to make another move.
"That's purely speculation at this point in time," Sather said of Doan, "but it doesn't eliminate the opportunity to pursue someone else at this stage."
After a trip to the conference finals and adding Nash, expectations will be high in New York next season. Coach John Tortorella knows managing those expectations will be important.
"I think as you evolve as a team, there's always expectations," Tortorella told Michael Kay on ESPN Radio. "I think that's a big part of what we have to handle correctly this year as we start the season and go through it. You guys are always asking me to predict this and predict that, there's no predicting. We just go about our business. All teams try to improve in the offseason and when they have opportunities during the year. That’s what we're trying to do here. I think we added a really good player."
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