The pending Rick Nash-Columbus Blue Jackets divorce went from a genteel parting of the ways to Frank and Jamie McCourt territory.
While the Blue Jackets’ star forward and general manager Scott Howson have yet to launch an all-out legal war like the feuding Los Angeles Dodgers owners, Howson’s revelation that it was Nash who asked to be moved before the NHL’s 3 p.m. (all times Eastern) trade deadline on Monday signalled the gloves are off in the split.
Howson pinned the blame on Nash after failing to get his price for the unhappy star forward by the deadline. Until then, it was assumed the Blue Jackets were the ones who reluctantly came to the decision it was best for their rebuilding plan to trade Nash.
Nash did nothing to persuade anyone otherwise until the weekend when his agent, Joe Resnick, said they hoped a trade would be completed by the deadline. Resnick also put pressure on Howson to complete the trade by saying Nash would not change the short list of teams he agreed to be traded to by this summer when more teams might be willing to meet Howson’s price.
“[Nash]approached us and asked us to consider trading him,” Howson said. “We agreed to accommodate his request as long as we could get a deal that would provide us with the cornerstone pieces to help us compete for a Stanley Cup championship.”
When he was asked if he ever got close to moving Nash, Howson said, “It doesn’t really matter how close we were. It just didn’t happen.” He did say there was no last-minute flurry of offers as the deadline ticked away.
Since the Blue Jackets have made the playoffs just once in their 12-year history, in the 2008-09 season, it was thought Nash, 27, was tired of the losing after nine seasons. But Howson declined to say if he knew why Nash asked for a trade. He said the request was made “in mid to late January.”
“You would have to ask him,” Howson said pointedly. “He obviously wants a change.”
However Nash declined to speak to reporters earlier in the day after the Blue Jackets’ practice at Nationwide Arena. Resnick did not respond to a request for comment.
Howson said he told Nash at the 3 p.m. deadline he was not going to be traded and that he planned to tell the media it was Nash who asked for the divorce.
“I just think it was the right thing to do,” Howson said. “It was the truthful thing to do.”
But the revelation is sure to create hard feelings between the fans and Nash, who was careful to say he loved playing in Columbus. The fans’ sentiments will be known Tuesday night when Nash and the Blue Jackets play the visiting Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide Arena. Nash is expected to address the media in the morning.
Howson’s price for Nash is thought to be a young impact NHL player, one or two top prospects and a first-round pick in the entry draft. It was reported the price rose from that in the past couple of days and Howson said Monday the report “had a little bit of truth to it.”
The most interested teams were thought to be the New York Rangers and San Jose Sharks, with the Toronto Maple Leafs as an outside contender. With Nash, a native of Brampton, Ont., now likely to be traded in June, the Maple Leafs’ chances of landing him increased, although GM Brian Burke may have difficulty meeting Howson’s price without weakening his team too much to make it worthwhile.
“Teams were reluctant at this stage,” said Howson, who added he spoke to every NHL team about Nash at some point. “One problem is salary-cap space and the other is destructing your own team. I had many teams express that they would be a lot more interested [in June]”
The situation now has the potential to get ugly. More teams may be willing to meet Howson’s terms in June and take on the player’s salary cap hit of $7.8-million (U.S.) for the next six years. However, with Nash refusing to increase his list of approved teams, it will be difficult for Howson to get his price.
Howson, though, said he could see Nash remaining with the Blue Jackets next season.
“We don’t have to trade Rick Nash,” he said. “We’re going to do what’s best for our team. It’s possible to change anyone’s mind [about wanting a trade]”