Where in the world is Rick Nash going to be playing come March?
With less than two weeks left until the trade deadline on February 27, rumors are beginning to swirl that Rick Nash is unhappy in Columbus and finally wants out.
Mistake after mistake have been made by the Blue Jackets front office and general manager Scott Howson. Signings like Jeff Carter and the resigning of Vinny Prospal have raised questions about the future of the franchise.
It could be another several years before Columbus can dig out of their current hole and at age 27, Nash sees his window of talent closing in the future and he doesn't want to be around for a third rebuilding process in the Buckeye State.
The problem is Nash is incredibly valuable. He has scored 40 goals twice and notched at least 50 points in every season since his first. At 6'4 and 219 pounds he is a big body that can go where he wants to on the ice and isn't afraid to battle in the corners.
The former number 1 overall pick is also a key component of the Canadian National team and has won five medals, including an Olympic gold in 2010, for his country.
He also has seven years remaining on his deal with an incredible $7.8 million cap hit each year. That alone will be a major obstacle for any team to overcome, to say nothing of the package that the Blue Jackets would look for in return.
If Columbus does move their captain, they are going to want pieces to build around for the future; most notably a top flight goaltender. Steve Mason is young and some still think he can be a number one goaltender, but his only good season was his rookie year in 2008, since then his goals against is over 3 and his save percentage under .900
Failing a deal with a number one goaltender, they could be enticed into a package with some picks and can't miss prospects as well. But any deal will have to involve an established veteran if for no other reason than to balance the books of the team that gets Nash.
The ideal move for Columbus involves a goaltender, which means that teams like Vancouver, Los Angeles and Boston have a leg up if they are willing to part with the right piece.
Vancouver's Corey Schneider, L.A.'s Jonathan Bernier or Boston's Tuukka Rask all exist in limbo. They are massively talented, young, and sitting behind established starters who aren't going anywhere.
In Vancouver, any deal would have to include David Booth, Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis or Keith Ballard in order to make the money work. On the surface, it doesn't look like any of those scenarios would benefit Vancouver and while they would love to have a player like Nash they aren't likely to work very hard to make it happen.
For Los Angeles, there is a deal that could work. If they packaged Bernier with their other trade bait Dustin Penner. Penner is a similar player to Nash in his size and makeup but he has been a complete dud since move to LA at the deadline last year, notching seven goals and 12 assists in 62 games.
The money works and perhaps the talent lines up, but it seems like an awful lot for the Kings to give up for one player, especially since the Jackets will probably want a pick thrown in as well.
Boston has a ton of room left under the cap and could take on Nash's contract right now without moving a single player. However, ten players on their roster, including Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk all have two or less years remaining on their deals.
So, if the Bruins make a move for Nash without clearing some space they will lose out on homegrown talent down the line that they have been developing.
The Bruins would probably have to offer a package that included Lucic or David Krejci in addition to Rask and a pick. That would be a very high price to pay, but perhaps a worthwhile one for one of the top forwards in the game.
Another landing spot for Nash could be the New York Rangers. The Rangers have scored just 153 goals in their first 54 games. Only Florida, Los Angeles and St. Louis have scored fewer among playoff teams. If New York wants to kick start that offense and provide new signing Brad Richards with an incredibly dangerous wingman, they could make a move for Nash.
But the Rangers would also have to pay a very high price for his services. There have been discussions about a package involving Brandon Dubinski, top prospect Chris Kreider and a first round pick going to Columbus to get Nash.
The deadline is approaching and while none of these deals may happen before then, keep an eye on this player and these teams as we go into the offseason. Nash won't be a member of the Blue Jackets much longer.