Due to the parity found in the NHL today, there are very few defined sellers heading into the Feb. 27 trade deadline. Perhaps the only team clearly in that category is the Columbus Blue Jackets as they are in the league's basement by a nine-point margin.
The Blue Jackets have several pieces that would be of interest to contending teams, but there is no question that their crown jewel is multiple-All-Star forward Rick Nash. Not only was he the No. 1 overall pick in 2002, but he has racked up six 30-plus-goal campaigns and is Columbus' all-time leading scorer.
All of that makes Nash the Blue Jackets' franchise player, but if there is a deal to be had that brings in some pieces to build for the future, then Columbus has to be receptive. Nash's $7.8 million cap hit through the 2017/18 season is binding, and getting rid of it would be a big help.
Here are three teams who are most likely to land Nash by the deadline.
New York Rangers
It appears as though the New York Rangers have emerged as the favorite among several contenders to land Nash. According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, the Rangers and Blue Jackets have already had preliminary discussions.
Brooks speculates that a package of forward Brandon Dubinsky, top prospect Chris Kreider and a first-round pick could be enough to land Nash.
The issue for New York is that it has a lot of money invested in the likes of Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Henrik Lundqvist. Even so, dealing Dubinsky to Columbus would almost give the Rangers enough cap space to afford Nash.
The Rangers are nine points clear of second place in the Eastern Conference, but they could use a power forward who can light the lamp, making Nash an ideal target.
The Philadelphia Flyers are always in the conversation when it comes to acquiring big-name players at the deadline. With that in mind, Philly is very much in the hunt for Nash.
According to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, the Flyers would like to nab Nash and have the young players to do so. Forwards Brayden Schenn, James Van Riemsdyk and Sean Couturier could all be centerpieces of a trade for Nash.
With defenseman Chris Pronger on long-term injured reserve, the Flyers have about $4 million in cap space, so dealing Schenn's $2.77 million cap hit the other way would get them close to the $7.8 million they need.
Schenn hasn't become a stud as quickly as many may have thought, but the potential is there, so the Blue Jackets might bite on a deal with him. Philadelphia could certainly benefit from another big, skilled forward, making Nash an awesome target.
Sitting eight points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, most would probably consider the Buffalo Sabres to be a seller. While it wouldn't be surprising to see them sell off smaller pieces like Paul Gaustad, Brad Boyes and Jordan Leopold, there is reason to believe they will try to make improvement at the deadline as well.
Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun believes the Sabres are one of four teams interested in acquiring Nash. Owner Terry Pegula has a three-year plan to win the Stanley Cup, and while this year is likely a lost cause in that regard, he can still position his team for the next two seasons.
The Sabres lack in size and scoring ability up front, making Nash a perfect fit.
The Sabres have little cap space, but they have expiring contracts like Boyes and Gaustad to send the other way if need be. Buffalo has a myriad of young talent including the likes of Luke Adam, Brayden McNabb, Marcus Foligno and Zack Kassian.
It may seem like a long shot, but the Sabres are a dark-horse bet to land Nash because their goal is still to win in the near future.
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