With several hours now past since the NHL trade deadline for this season, we are left with many more questions than answers.
With the only significant trades to take place being the departures of Antoine Vermette and Jeff Carter leading up to the deadline, the Jackets did send Samuel Pahlsson to the Canucks for draft picks and minor league d-man Taylor Ellington, it's far from the "Nuclear Option". If the team's core needed to be broken up, far too much of it seems to still be in place at this point, which leads us to wondering what will happen this off season, and the continuing saga of Rick Nash.
General Manager Scott Howson appears to have held firm on his demands, refusing final offers from the New York Rangers and San Jose Sharks late in the day.
There will be debate on this, but at the moment I find it to have been the right move. We do not know what San Jose offered (other than the often reported rumor that Columbus wanted Logan Couture in the deal, and the Sharks said no), while the rumored offer from the Rangers, while it appears impressive on paper, would have done little to aid the team's long term needs. Erixon would have gone into a blue line that is increasingly crowded, Dubinsky is essentially another Umberger type player, and the remaining prospects are question marks at best. Perhaps one would blow up into a player who could crack the roster, but likely not.
Howson's major misstep would wait for the post deadline press conference, where he made the decision to air out the dirty laundry. Undoubtably feeling pressure from the tactic's of Nash's agent in going to TSN over the weekend, it was a counter blow that may have been aimed at getting fans behind the front office and making an eventual trade more acceptable, but feels like he shot his own foot off in the process.
If Rick Nash went to ownership, as reported by 97.1 and others and said it was a "They go or I go" situation with the team's front office, blame is likely to be found on both sides. Howson bet big this offseason and failed to make the right calls with his coaching and trying to fix problems before things fell completely apart. Nash obviously has enjoyed playing in Columbus, but it seems he's trying to dictate that what's best for Rick Nash will be best for the Blue Jackets, and that's exactly the mentality that lead to firing Ken Hitchcock, a round robin of veterans to "help with leadership", acquiring Jeff Carter, and put the team into much of their current mess.
Both have now revealed their hands and exposed weaknesses that will make any resolution difficult. I can't see a scenario where both remain in Columbus after the close of this season - but I can certainly imagine both shown the door before long.
The real focus now needs to be on the team's ownership, who apparently decided to back Howson to the hilt. If his mandate was to get best value out of his big chips and reshape this team, right now we have Jack Johnson (good), second and fourth round picks (tolerable, but not great), and an elephant in the room. It's hard to look at this as anything but mediocre. Any deals for Nash will likely get worse, and if his "list" is truly a fixed one, there's no opportunity to try and play new suitors into the mix to help sweeten the pot again.
You gave him the football, and he fumbled it. Will you let him try again in June, or is it time for someone else to step in and call the shots?
If Scott Howson truly survives this season (and it's a big IF), he should be hoping and praying for San Jose, New York, and any other teams on Nash's list to have a late round exit from the playoffs, perhaps convincing them that they could be a front runner for next year with Nash in the lineup.
The other question will be how the room responds to the news - if this wasn't already an open secret among them. If Nash is expected to motivate this team to play, how far do you stick your neck out for someone who's willing to leave town?
We knew the next 20 games wouldn't be pretty. I'm not sure anyone imagined just how ugly they might become.