When you're in a large market like New York, there are no shortage of opportunities to improve your team. Sunday night, Rangers fans and Madison Square garden faithful saw first-hand the NHL trade deadline's prized target, as the Blue Jackets' Rick Nash tied the game late in the third period. Tuesday night versus the Penguins, New York was shut out.
With six days left until the deadline, the confluence of events creates the perfect fan and media frenzy for why the Rangers should pursue the 27-year-old power forward, who has two 40-goal seasons and six seasons with 30 goals or more under his belt.
But it is not the right move.
The Rangers are the NHL's 11th-ranked offense and one of the league's best defensive teams. They have one of the worst power plays in the league at 27th and very solid penalty kill. Suffice to say, a goal scorer should be a target of general manager Glen Sather as the Feb. 27 deadline looms. Adding Nash, a left-handed right wing with 20 goals and 42 points this year, would surely infuse an elite talent to the Rangers' top two lines. But the bad outweighs the good.
First of all, New York is 38-15-5 this season, so it has been successful with the current group of guys, who have all bought into coach John Tortorella's style. Let's not overreact to a few subpar performances -- three straight games without a regulation win for the first time since the first three games of the year. Sure, playoff hockey tends to be lower scoring -- meaning a guy like Nash could be a difference-maker. But the Rangers have grown immensely this year (probably above expectations), and allowing the current group (with maybe one or two rentals added) to battle in the playoffs together is another huge stepping stone to cultivating a long-term home-built contender.
What Columbus wants now is going to be more pricey than the package they'd ask for during the offseason, just based on desperation from the playoff teams to make the splash now. The "rumored" deal (that the Rangers have balked at) has Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan McDonagh/Michael Del Zotto, a top prospect like Chris Kreider and a first-round pick heading to Columbus. Dubinsky is a struggling third-liner making $4.2 million over the next four seasons, so he is certainly movable. But let's not forget he was the Rangers' best forward in their playoff series against the Capitals last year. And he is a key to New York's identity, can play in all situations and a veteran presence having played in the league for five full seasons now. The Rangers may not put in any fancy goals, but there's something to be said for a close-knit group whose total package seems to outweigh their individual pieces at this point. Losing Dubinsky could have an adverse affect in the locker room, and it will take time for Nash to learn the Rangers' system and all of its defensive responsibilities. Getting someone like him may be more beneficial in the offseason when he can start from square one.
The next factor is Nash's contract. The right wing is in the second year of an eight-year, $62.4 million deal ($7.8 million cap hit per year). The Rangers already have three players making about $7 million for at least the next three seasons (Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Henrik Lundqvist). If the salary cap stays around $64 million, that would mean New York is committing about 43 percent of the cap on four players for the next three seasons. Granted, a few players will come off the books, but the Rangers are a young, improving group with players who will need to be re-signed in the coming seasons when Nash would be a part of the club. Del Zotto is due a rase as a restricted free agent this offseason and should make just over $2 million. Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin and Artem Anisimov will also be due for raises in two seasons as RFAs. Brad Richards is the only current Ranger to have a deal as long as Nash's -- meaning every player will see their contract expire. (Of course, I realize that not everyone will be back and different players will be here.)
New York has prided itself over the past five or so years on building from within. I'm not saying Kreider will ever become Nash. But the Rangers have proven over the past few years there are benefits to youth. Young players cost less, allowing the the front office to bring in more suitable pieces and not act on a whim. They also grow together -- we've seen that this season. Nash will also be 34 years old when his deal ends, certainly a few years off his prime. Too many long-term, expensive contracts could be crippling down the road for the Rangers if they want to retain their youth.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Nash, and I think he would be a a tremendous addition. I just don't think it's right for how these Rangers are built and for the collection it would take to bring him to Broadway right now. If, during the offseason the price drops, then that is something Sather should revisit. But players like Zach Parise will also be available this offseason, and all it will take to sign him is money.
The Blueshirts need to look into acquiring a scoring-type come the deadline. But what they need is someone who won't affect the team's composition now or long-term.
|2011 - Rick Nash