Despite the Rick Nash fever gripping the hockey world, there is no guarantee the Columbus Blue Jackets will move their star winger by the Feb. 27 NHL trade deadline even though a divorce is almost certain. There will be a long line of suitors but the complications are many in trading someone with a cap hit of $7.8-million (U.S.) for six more years.
It may be in the Blue Jackets' best interest to wait until the off-season to trade Nash, as there may be more teams willing to make serious offers. Jackets general manager Scott Howson has already been told by some of his peers that is what they prefer since it's easier to deal with the salary cap issue then.
However, Howson will still need Nash to waive his no-movement rights for any trade. Howson will be looking for a combination of young established players, top prospects and a first-round draft pick. His needs are greatest in goal and on defence.
Here is a look at the major contenders in alphabetical order, most of which are thought to be on the list of approved teams Nash submitted to Howson:
Nash may be a perfect fit here, since the Bruins are not sure when winger Nathan Horton will come back from his latest concussion. However, GM Peter Chiarelli has said he is wary of disrupting the chemistry in the dressing room and he is not willing to trade young goaltender Tuukka Rask.
Detroit Red Wings
Wings head coach Mike Babcock, who coached Nash on the Canadian Olympic team, loves him. Wings GM Ken Holland, not so much, although he might be interested in an off-season deal. In general, though, Holland's philosophy is to build his teams down the middle and on defence, so paying a huge price for a winger is not a priority.
Los Angeles Kings
They are the predeadline favourite. GM Dean Lombardi needs to make the playoffs, especially in the wake of his bosses' decision to sharply hike some season-ticket prices next season. Lombardi just happens to have everybody's favourite goaltender prospect in Jonathan Bernier and several young defencemen. He also may be desperate enough for scoring to add a solid forward like Dustin Brown to the package.
New York Rangers
The Rangers have already talked to Howson about Nash but they have chemistry and asset problems. Any trade would have to involve young players already playing a role in New York – any or most of Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky and Michael Del Zotto. It would be a shock to the dressing room to lose some of those players.
Injuries are finally slowing the Flyers down, and like the Rangers they have some young players who would interest Howson. However, like the Rangers, the Flyers may not be interested in parting with any of Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, James van Riemsdyk and Sergei Bobrovsky. Flyers GM Paul Holmgren would also have to do some dancing with his salary cap.
San Jose Sharks
Sharks captain Joe Thornton would love to have Nash on his wing and vice-versa. But the cupboard of Sharks GM Doug Wilson is bare because of too many previous deadline deals made to try to get his notorious playoff underachievers over the hump.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Leafs GM Brian Burke always gets in the mix whenever a player like this is available, even though he may not have as many assets as the other traders. But you never know when the big guns back off and you could slide up the middle to get the prize. And Burke has never had this many young players available to trade, such as Luke Schenn, Nazem Kadri, Joe Colborne, etc.
The Canucks have what Columbus needs, goaltender Cory Schneider and some good young players like Cody Hodgson and Chris Tanev. But they are also a team that has veterans like the Sedins and Kevin Bieksa who took hometown discounts on their contracts to stay with the Canucks. Bringing in an outsider with a bigger salary than anyone else could mean trouble, so consider the Canucks a long shot.