Yesterday was an emotional day for fans of the Columbus Blue Jackets, and it had nothing to do with Valentine's Day. Yesterday was the first time that media and fans really entertained the idea of trading Rick Nash. Twitter, media outlets like TSN and Sportsnet here in Canada, and multiple blogs across all networks were buzzing with discussion regarding the Jackets moving their captain and face of the franchise.
There were trade proposals being tossed around left, right and center. The bigger outlets reported and speculated on a short list of teams that Nash was asked to provide the club. Some fans announced their displeasure with the idea of trading the big winger. Others countered with their approval of the idea. All speculation, but it sure shined a light on Columbus for the time being.
You can put me firmly in the camp that believes that when it comes to trades, the team that receives the best player in the deal almost always ends up "winning" the deal. It will be very difficult for General Manager Scott Howson to acquire equal or better talent in return for Nash.
Trade value aside, there's the impact that trading the team captain and face of the franchise could have on the fanbase. At a time when they have little to be happy about, what kind of message does that send to the fans of the team? Nash has been the team's best player for the better part of a decade, and is arguably the only known quantity among the fringe fans that the Jackets are trying so hard to draw to the rink.
Understandably, Howson has to do what is best for the future of the team. If trading Nash will help the team become a perennial playoff threat, so be it. That said, there is only one trade scenario that I could stomach. It fills a huge organizational need, and would provide the team with hope for the future.It's no secret that the Jackets need to improve their goaltending. Free agency is not the way to go. One look at the free agent lists is enough to make you cringe. Very few teams have a goaltender on their roster they could trade, with another waiting in the wings to take over.
One of those teams however, is the Vancouver Canucks.
There has been talk the past few seasons that the Canucks will eventually trade one of their goaltenders. With Roberto Luongo and his long-term deal making him difficult to trade, Schneider is the most likely to be dealt. From a Columbus perspective, they would likely demand the classic 3P package (player, prospect, pick) in any potential deal. If the Columbus management and scouts determine that Schneider is the answer to their issues in net, Vancouver has the assets that could get a Nash to Vancouver deal done.
Right off the bat, in return for Nash the Jackets will want Schneider. The Canucks would likely counter with Luongo, but Howson knows better to take on that contract. The Jackets would love to add a high-end defense prospect in the deal, but the fact is the Canucks don't really possess any. Instead, the Jackets target one of Cody Hodgson or 2011 first rounder Nicklas Jensen, who is currently playing with Columbus prospect Boone Jenner for Oshawa of the OHL. Vancouver's 2012 first round pick is an obvious inclusion, but given the Canucks place in the standings, the pick will likely be in the 20-30 range of the first round.
Now, let's talk dollars. The Canucks are right at the cap. To make this thing work, the Canucks would need to send some salary back Columbus' way. I see two scenarios right off the bat. In addition to Schneider and Hodgson, the Canucks can ship impending free agents Mason Raymond and Sami Salo in the deal, who have a combined cap hit of $4.55 million. Alternatively, and of more use to the Jackets, the Canucks could deal defenseman Keith Ballard, who carries a $4.2 million cap hit. Let's summarize the two scenarios:
|PLAYER||CAP HIT (MIL)|
|PLAYER||CAP HIT (MIL)|
All number are courtesy of Cap Geek.
Nash has a cap hit of $7.8 million. The dollars don't match exactly, so the Canucks would likely have to get creative, whether' it's via another trade or with internal shuffling to make up the difference of Nash's cap hit.
Personally, I like the idea of the team getting Ballard in the deal. He's a top-four defenseman (another organizational need) to go along with Schneider, Hodgson, and the first rounder. If Hodgson isn't the prospect/young player in the deal, and it's a guy like Jensen, more creativity is needed in terms of making the dollars work. That said, I believe that Canucks would have little trouble getting the necessary cap room if it meant acquiring a player of Nash's caliber.
This is all speculation of course, but my point is, a Nash trade is not a good thing for the franchise unless they can get help in goal and on defense right away, along with acquiring young talent to help add to the future core. A deal that would see Nash traded to Vancouver for Schneider, Hodgson or Jensen, Ballard and a first round pick would still hurt, but I could at least feel good about the team's future.