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Blue Jackets can't keep Nash forever

By Dan Di Sciullo
NHL Editor


Dan Di Sciullo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - With the NHL's trade deadline less than two weeks away, the rumor mill is churning faster and faster every day. On Monday, it finally spun out a name worth getting excited about.

For the most part, the deadline is used by some NHL teams to add depth needed for a playoff push, while teams who aren't in postseason contention try to sell off veteran assets to acquire cheaper prospects.

It's pretty rare that a bona-fide superstar is put on the block, but with the recent addition of Columbus forward Rick Nash to the mix, there could be a legitimate superstar to be had before the Feb. 27 deadline.

According to RDS, Canada's French-language equivalent of TSN, the Blue Jackets are open to trading Nash to a host of potential suitors. Of course, Columbus general manager Scott Howson will not confirm or deny the report, but the mere suggestion that Nash is available is enough to set off a race to acquire the sniper's services.

Rick Nash has averaged over 32 goals a season since breaking into the league in 2002-03.
If the report is true and Columbus is seriously considering offers for Nash, it would seem that the New York Rangers would be one of the main suitors. The Rangers are the top team in the Eastern Conference, but the Blueshirts have done it more with defense and acquiring a big-time offensive talent like Nash could be the difference in winning a Stanley Cup or coming up short.

Landing Nash would most likely require New York to part with coveted forward prospect and current Boston College standout Chris Kreider. And that's just a starting point, as the Rangers would almost certainly have to include a player from their current NHL roster (Brandon Dubinsky's name has been mentioned already) and Columbus also will likely be seeking a first-round draft pick as well.

But, the Rangers won't be the only team dialing Howson's number in the coming weeks, and in the end, Nash's no-trade clause will ensure he has the final say on any potential trade.

Since being taken first overall by the Blue Jackets in the 2002 draft. Nash has become synonymous with Columbus hockey. However, through little fault of his own, Columbus hockey itself is synonymous with being a perennial doormat.

A five-time All-Star, Nash has averaged over 32 goals a season since breaking into the league in 2002-03. A one-man show, Nash has led the team in goals every year since his second season and that includes 2005-06, when he paced the Jackets with 31 goals despite playing in just 54 games. And, yes, the 27- year-old is leading Columbus in goals once again this season with 18 markers.

So what has changed now for the Blue Jackets that has reportedly led them to consider dealing Nash? In reality, the reason for his sudden availability is that nothing has ever changed in Columbus. The franchise has qualified for the postseason just once since entering the league as an expansion team in 2000 and with an NHL-low 38 points through 56 games this season, the Jackets are all but assured of going into the offseason early yet again.

For a franchise that has pretty much done nothing but lose since it came into existence, the club's failures this season have been especially hard to take. Columbus made waves in the offseason, signing defenseman James Wisniewski to a six-year, $33 million deal and acquiring centerman Jeff Carter in a blockbuster trade with Philadelphia.

Both Wisniewski and Carter have been dogged by injuries this year and neither is having a banner season. But, Carter has really been the fly in the ointment for Columbus. The former Flyer got off to an awkward start with his new club in the summer when he was unhappy with being dealt to Columbus and his 12 goals and eight assists in 35 games this season are a clear indicator that Carter has let his personal feelings get in the way of his play.

It's not surprising the Blue Jackets are actively trying to pass the disgruntled Carter onto another team before the trade deadline, but his failure to catch on in Columbus also has greased the wheels for Nash's potential departure. Nash was supposed to benefit from finally having a top- line centerman like Carter, but the two have obviously failed to develop chemistry, a fact that isn't all that surprising since Carter has always been better at scoring goals than setting up his linemates.

It's hard to keep a talent like Nash when Columbus seems to be forever stuck in a holding pattern. The Blue Jackets had full intentions of building a team around Nash, as evidenced by the eight-year, $62 million extension he signed in the summer of 2009, but it simply hasn't worked.

With the way the club has floundered again this season, Columbus is staring at yet another a rebuilding project and it just doesn't make much sense for the team or Nash to go through that process together. It's hard to rebuild what was never built in the first place and while dealing away the only game- changing piece the franchise ever had may seem counter-productive, both Nash and Columbus could benefit greatly from a fresh start.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Dan Di Sciullo at ddisciullo@sportsnetwork.com.

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