It was only a matter of time. What Glen Sather wants, he -- eventually -- normally gets. And on Monday afternoon the New York Rangers general manager landed a player he's coveted for over six months. At his price. Rick Nash is now a member of the Rangers, and in moving Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first-rounder, Sather did nothing to ruin the immediate chemistry nor affect the long-term outlook of a promising team.
Even after finishing first in the East, the Rangers still had their detractors, mainly because of their goal-scoring difficulties, which became more evident in the tight-checking playoffs. Now, without question, New York has become the cream of the crop in its conference.
In acquiring Nash, the Rangers get a five-time All-Star, a leader (he was Columbus' captain) at 28 who's in his prime. Seven times he's scored 30 goals or more, two of which he reached at least the 40-goal mark. In the last five seasons, he's had at least 59 points. In only one season did Columbus finish above the .500 mark, as perennially it has been one of the worst teams in the league. Nash produced with hardly any support, without playmakers. Now, the 6-foot-4 power forward will play with one of the better centers in the game in Brad Richards, or a burgeoning one in Derek Stepan.
Nash wanted out of Columbus, that was clear. Howson, though, thought that waiting would give him the best change to net the best package. Some team -- like the free-spending team from Manhattan -- would have to budge on his demands, the GM believed. But that never happened. In fact, Sather paid his price. Howson sought high-impact young players, and he originally pointed to Chris Kreider, Micahel Del Zotto, Carl Hagelin or Derek Stepan as must-haves. Those players were non-starters for the Rangers. Yet they still had enough young pieces -- those without the ceiling of potential stars, but valuable nonetheless -- to intrigue Howson.
Dubinsky and Anisimov were valuable players, don't get me wrong. Dubsinky had a down year last season, is a great two-way player, one who's hard to play against -- but he's a third-line player right now with the upside as an OK second-liner. Anisimov has shown flashes of his offensive upside: he has a lethal wrist shot, he's long and rangy; he's a center and is responsible defensively. But even at 24, he's been far too inconsistent -- and too many questions still exist as to what he'll eventually become. Erixon has high-end potential from the blueline He has the know-how, offensive savvy and is solid defender. But he looked weak last year, and coach John Tortorella never saw enough of the upside to give him a long-run chance -- and he even admitted so on ESPN's Michael Kay Show on Monday evening. The young defenseman may have great upside, but the Rangers dealt from considerable depth: They have a core group of four defenseman who the organization sees as long-term players -- and a few in the minors who will soon get their chances.
It isn't often that you have the chance to acquire a superstar player. It isn't often that the chance comes when you're already a contender. The Rangers may have lost some depth, but what they gained was a durable powerful forward and strong top-six. Once Marian Gaborik (who could come back in November from shoulder surgery) returns, the Rangers will boast a dangerous top-six of Rick Nash-Brad Richards-Chris Kreider; Marian Gaborik-Derek Stepan-Ryan Callahan. There aren't many teams in the NHL that can match that, let alone defend a group that's so deep.
Even better for the Rangers is that this does nothing to affect the rest of their offseason. The three players' salaries they dealt total $7.825 million, while Nash will earn $7.8 million. It gives Sather the ability to still go after someone like Shane Doan, and if that doesn't work out, a young player gets a better opportunity to crack the lineup.
That Sather made a coup of this nature without giving up a possible face-of-the-franchise player is simply amazing. There's about two months until training camp begins, but it's safe to say it couldn't come sooner enough. Rangers fans need to thank Howson for filling the team's biggest need.