Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson is playing a game he can't win.
The Rick Nash Trading Game. (Some may say hockey, but I'll leave that debate for another day.)
I'm far from a fan of Howson. I haven't been a big fan at least since last summer, when he decided it was acceptable to head into the season with Steve Mason and Mark Dekanich as his goalie tandem.
Right now, he has the unenviable task of trading away the only true professional sports superstar the city of Columbus has known.
Reports are surfacing (and have been since the trade deadline) that Scott Howson is simply asking for too much. Chris Kreider, Jeff Skinner, Logan Couture, and Sean Couturier are some of the names that Howson is said to be demanding and are being laughed off.
Remember, he unloaded Nikolay Zherdev and Dan Fritsche for Fedor Tyutin, one of the more dependable (if unspectacular) defenseman in the NHL. He traded Pascal Leclaire (remember him?) for Antoine Vermette. Even Jake Voracek and the 8th overall pick (used on Couturier) for Jeff Carter wasn't the worst trade ever – in the end it netted Jack Johnson, who saw a rebirth in Columbus after the trade deadline and is on his way to being named the next team captain. And when Marc Methot became the odd man out on defense, he traded him for Nick Foligno, a player who more than replaces Voracek's absence on the second line wing.
So should Howson listen to NHL insiders and hockey reporters and lower his trade demands? Should he be willing to accept a couple B-grade prospects and hope for the best? As Aaron Portzline points out, Nash is one of only four players to score 30 or more goals in the last five years. So while people try to compare this to the Jordan Staal for Brandon Sutter and a draft pick trade that happened last month, it's not. It's a start, maybe, but not a simple deal by any means. Nash is 2/3's of the way to being a member of the Triple Gold Club and has a Rocket Richard trophy to his name. No offense to Jordan Staal, but he's not on the same level.
I also have a funny suspicion that if Howson were to simply give Nash away to get this drama over with, those same reporters would slam him for being a bad GM. He's done a lot to earn that reputation, but making bad trades isn't one of them. And it shouldn't start now.
But in the end, he can't really win. When you're giving up the best player in the trade, you generally can't win. But Howson can't make a move just to make a move.
As for what return is fair, it will almost undoubtedly land somewhere between Blue Jackets fans hating it and the other team saying they gave up too much.
One final thought: The Cannon's Matt Wagner tweeted earlier –
OK, serious question. People are "shocked" Howson asked for Skinner. How would you react if he had asked for Cam Ward?
My response, in a word: relieved.
As much as the team clearly needs offense, because even with Nash this team looks more like an expansion team than a team only a few years removed from a playoff trip, they certainly can't be serious about going into the season with Sergei Bobrovsky and Steve Mason as their goalies... can they?