The Los Angeles Kings may be on the verge of their third consecutive playoff berth, but they're still further away from contending for a Stanley Cup than they would like to be at this point. For them to finally get past the first round of the postseason and challenge the league's elite this spring, they're going to have to add a premier forward before the February 27 trade deadline.
And who better to acquire than Rick Nash, arguably the best pure goal-scorer of his generation?
A multitude of credible sources, including TSN's Bob McKenzie, are reporting that Columbus GM Scott Howson has put his superstar center on the block, sending fans across the continent into a frenzy.
The Kings (27-19-11) currently occupy seventh place in the Western Conference standings, a mere five points ahead of the ninth-place Calgary Flames.
They also have the worst offense in the league, scoring at a paltry 2.10 clip per game. Add Nash to the mix, and suddenly the Kings go from a fringe playoff team to a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
LA's well-documented offensive struggles have been their Achilles heel all season. Mike Richards has been a major disappointment since coming over from Philadelphia, and no one on the team has more than 17 goals. Nash, along with his lethal shot, could be the extra piece the Kings need to take the next step.
For Los Angeles to trade for Nash, however, they would have to free up some of their payroll. Sending Jack Johnson to Columbus, who is set to earn slightly more than $4 million a year through 2017-18, would make a lot of sense for both sides. The Kings have a phenomenal defense, making Johnson—while a great player in his own right—an expendable asset. The Jackets, who are 29th in the NHL in defense, would love to add a stable, disciplined blueliner to their club.
In addition to defensemen, Columbus will also be in the market for a goaltender in the near future, either at the deadline or in the offseason. It just so happens that Los Angeles has a pretty good goalie in Jonathan Bernier, who has been designated to a backup role with All-Star Jonathan Quick at the helm.
Bernier is young and unproven, but he also has a lot of untapped potential and certainly has the skill set to become a franchise goaltender in the coming years.
Los Angeles also has a plethora of young talent and one of the best overall farm systems in the league. If GM Dean Lombardi can dangle a top-tier prospect in front of Howson along with Johnson and Bernier, it could very well seal a deal.
The Jackets are going to try and build from the ground up, and having quality long-term options between the pipes and on defense should be their top priority. As a trade partner, the Kings could offer them exactly what they need. Of course all of this is speculation at this point, as Nash's no-trade clause will allow him to control his own destiny.
But if he decides that the Kings are a good fit for him, Columbus and Los Angeles may be a perfect match for each other.