Nash is at a turning point in his career. While he has lived in the limelight as the face of the franchise going on nine years, he has brought the team to a crossroads where it is time for them to trade him away. Although fans may not be excited about this option, it's a smart business decision for both the player and the team.
This won’t be the first time that one of the most popular players on a team has had to be moved despite it not being a favored decision with the fanbase.
Wayne Gretzky from Edmonton
Gretzky was the Edmonton Oilers. He started his career there and won four Stanley Cup titles in five years. But, because the team was losing money and because Gretzky was about to earn a huge contract, they had to trade him to the Los Angeles Kings.
At the press conference where they announced that he was traded, Gretzky was in tears. However, Gretzky played a part in being moved by dictating which team was the recipient of his talents. The trade to Los Angeles gave Edmonton two players, plus three first-round draft picks in three separate years and $15 million in cash.
In Nash’s situation, he doesn’t have a contract that is coming to an end like Gretzky, as Nash is signed through the 2017-18 season. However, Columbus is losing money—$80 million since 2004—and moving Nash would free up his remaining $47.4 million in payroll.
Nash has played eight full seasons in Columbus where he owns almost every offensive record, just like Gretzky did in his time with Edmonton. And just like Edmonton did when they moved Gretzky, Columbus will demand a “king’s ransom” of players, prospects and draft picks from a team that wants Nash.
It will be interesting to see if Nash is emotionally moved like Gretzky was and breaks down at the press conference.
Ray Bourque from Boston
Bourque was the epitome of what it means to stay with one franchise through good and bad times. He played for the Bruins for an amazing 20 seasons and earned the title of the team’s longest-serving captain.
However, in those 20 years, Bourque was never a Stanley Cup champion, only making the finals twice. Bourque saw that he was playing for a horrible Bruins team at the end of his career, and with the trade deadline approaching in the 1999 season, he requested to be traded to a cup contender.
The Bruins agreed and parted ways with Bourque in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche. In his quest to win his first—and only—Stanley Cup, Bourque led the Avalanche to a title in his last season, 2000-01.
Nash hasn’t been with the Blue Jackets for as long as Bourque was with Boston; however, just like Bourque, Nash is a great player who has never won a Stanley Cup. In fact, the furthest that Nash has advanced in the playoffs has been one appearance which resulted in a sweep in the first-round.
Columbus is struggling this year with a record of 17-34-6 which puts them dead last in the league with only 40 points.
Wendel Clark from Toronto
Clark was the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs for only four seasons. However, he did play with the club for an impressive 10 years before management felt that they needed to go in a younger direction.
The move was unpopular, as Clark was a fan-favorite among the Maple Leafs nation. Clark, just like Nash, was the player that the masses would flock to see every night.
However, in June of 1994, the Maple Leafs implemented the unpopular decision and moved Clark to Quebec for the budding star Mats Sundin. At the time, Sundin was a player who had only four seasons of experience and was still a work-in-progress.
But at the end of his time with the Maple Leafs, Sundin would become one of the best players in their history and have his number retired in the rafters with Clark’s.
Similarly, a trade for Nash will bring a young and talented player back to the Blue Jackets. Columbus, like Toronto, has a chance to get back a future franchise leader that could break all of Nash’s records.
The Right Move to Make
If Columbus could make a deal with a team like the New York Rangers for a few of their top prospects while freeing up Nash’s $7.8 million salary cap hit for the next six years, then why wouldn’t they do that?
Nash is a great player, and—depending on how his career plays out—could end up among the greats in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
However, like all good things, his time in Columbus must come to an end.
Nash, like these other great captains, has to move on beyond the franchise where he started his career. He should strive for a bigger market where he can get more exposure to the masses and have a better chance to win a Stanley Cup.
The Blue Jackets cannot wait to move him at the end of his contract when he will be 33 years old and in his 15th season. By then, his stock will be too low, and the team will not be able to demand the level of younger, upcoming talent that they can ask for now.
So, even if fans aren’t ready for Nash to go, the player and the team are likely to agree that it will allow both to grow in a new, more prosperous direction.
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