If a report in the February 14th edition of the New York Daily News is on target, the possibility exists that the New York Rangers’ front office will be contemplating a trade that could undo years of careful and often inspired personnel development.
It is rumored that the Columbus Blue Jackets (believed to be sellers once again after struggling through another disappointing season) have set a price on star winger Rick Nash that would require the Rangers to forfeit Brandon Dubinsky, Chris Kreider and a first-round pick.
The addition of Nash would appear to provide the Rangers with another legitimate scoring threat, but bringing Nash on board would be a prime example of subtraction by addition.
It's true that Nash, who won’t turn 28 until June, is an indisputably consistent offensive performer. He has averaged roughly 33 goals per year over his eight-year career, and this is for a team that has not sported alternative scoring threats.
Nash is also accustomed to a leadership role; the Rangers would be acquiring a player without locker room issues or excess baggage. In short, the Rangers would be taking on a proven scorer, a legitimate physical presence and a player that still has many years of excellence ahead of him.
But bringing on Nash does not make sense for the Rangers’ organization—not now and not down the road.
It's not about what Nash lacks but rather about what the Rangers would be sacrificing to bring him on.
Dubinsky for Nash might be a deal worth making (even if the transaction includes that first-round pick). But Dubinsky would be missed. He is part of this team’s DNA—representative of its soul and character despite struggling offensively all season.
But the tipping point here that turns this from a sensible transaction into a potential long-term regret is the inclusion of Chris Kreider.
Kreider may just be that good. If he is, he can bring all of the things to the table that Nash does and more.
Kreider is fast—uber-fast—the kind of fast that this Rangers team has forged its identity on. And then he's faster than that, drawing comparisons with current Ranger Carl Hagelin, the same Carl Hagelin that took home the NHL's fastest skater award in the All-Star Skills Competition.
Also, at 6’3” and 220 lbs, Kreider is just one inch shorter than Nash and actually a pound heavier. In other words, Kreider is also very big. For those of you keeping score at home that makes him very big and very fast.
Additionally, Kreider is seven years younger than Nash. The Rangers are doing enough as an organization that they don't need to pencil him in for 25-30 goals next season to ensure overall team success. Kreider can be developed at a pace that does not put the cart before the horse.
Finally, surrendering both Kreider and the first-round pick next season essentially negates all of the development put into Kreider thus far, and it also eliminates the potential to attempt to replace him in the organization’s prospect pool via the upcoming draft.
Put simply, removing Kreider while simultaneously surrendering the means to replace him could severely hurt the organization in years to come.
In the end, you don’t get something for nothing. The Rangers, if they are serious about acquiring Nash, will have to surrender a meaningful asset. Nash is a known commodity—which is why Columbus feels justified asking for Dubinsky, Kreider and a first rounder.
The Rangers, though, have made a habit of making solid personnel decisions over the past half decade.
They’ve identified, acquired and developed talent at a prodigious rate and transformed the organization from an also-ran to a true contender. Consequently, they should trust their eyes and instincts as it regards Kreider, and remove him from the discussion for Nash.
Despite head coach John Tortorella’s vehement denials, this Rangers team is close to being an annual contender for the Stanley Cup.
Rick Nash ups their chances this year—no doubt. But Kreider may be good enough to keep them in the hunt for a decade or more—maybe it's not such a difficult decision after all.