Battalion Breakdown is a closer look at the Blue Jackets' past season from a numerical standpoint, starting with the highest jersey number and counting down to the lowest. After running through existing Jackets, we have moved on to recent additions to the team. Today, BlueJackets.com examines Riley Nash's season and how it impacted the Boston Bruins in the 2017-18 campaign.
Birthdate: May 9, 1989
Height/Weight: 6-1, 190
When free agency began July 1, the Blue Jackets decided to add a key ingredient to their lineup.
They signed veteran center Riley Nash to a three-year contract worth a total of $8.25 million, which immediately improved their quality depth down the middle of the ice and gave them a right-handed center for important face-offs at the right-wing dots.
Nash, who started his NHL career with the Carolina Hurricanes and spent the past two seasons with the Boston Bruins, has played much of his seven-year career as a role player. Last season was a different story.
The Bruins' top center, Patrice Bergeron, left the lineup for an extended span with an injury and Nash earned a shot to fill the void in the middle of the Bruins' top line. Given the chance to shine, he answered the call impressively.
Nash proved he could play top-six minutes for a playoff-caliber team, which attracted the attention of teams around the league - including the Blue Jackets.
"I was open to going back to Boston, obviously, but having a good season like that, you have to make a little bit of a business decision as well," Nash said recently, during his first visit to Columbus as a member of the Blue Jackets. "As I look at the roster and look at the team, I think the fit will be really good."
He's not alone.
The Blue Jackets feel the same, after watching Nash put up career-best numbers last season to capitalize on his extended time in the Bruins' top six. Here's a look back at his 2017-18 season and how he helped the Bruins win 50 games to finish second in the Atlantic Division with 112 points:
Nash's 15 goals and 26 assists added up to a career-high 41 points, which were aided by about 20 games replacing Bergeron on a line that featured high-scoring forwards Brad Marchand and David Pastrňák at the wing positions. He finished with 16 more points than his previous career high of 25 (eight goals, 17 assists) in 2014-15 with the Hurricanes.
Nash's increased time in the top six also put him on the ice more, which led to a career-high in ice time (15:25). He might play a little less this season, likely centering the third or fourth line, but being the only right-handed pivot could also lead to him being used situationally for key draws.
In the last two seasons, Nash has logged a total of 15 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for Boston - averaging a little more than 15 minutes per game. Last season, he played an important role Boston's first-round victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs, which went seven games.
During the playoffs, the Bruins used Nash as a faceoff specialist. It's easy to see why when you look at his career postseason numbers. Nash has won nearly 57 percent of his faceoffs and could help the Blue Jackets establish more puck-possession in the playoffs. Columbus didn't re-sign veteran center Mark Letestu this summer, who's also right-handed, so Nash will likely be looked upon to win key draws at the right-wing dots.
Playing with top-six talent and posting a career-high in points also helped Nash achieve another career-best: a plus-16 rating. That was a big jump from his previous career-high for a full NHL season, which was an even rating in 2013-14.
The Blue Jackets will still have one of the NHL's youngest teams, top to bottom, but Nash adds veteran experience that will be welcomed on the ice and in the locker room. Entering his seventh full NHL season, Nash's his first game in a Blue Jackets' uniform will also be his 400th game in the league. He'll fit in well with a handful of Jackets veterans who also logged their 400th games last season.