Rick Nash on Tuesday submitted to Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson a short list of NHL teams to whom he would be open to being traded, thereby breaking his no-movement clause in his contract.
That news came as a pleasant surprise to these teams' GMs and most GMs around the league looking to improve their teams in an effort to enter or solidify their places in the playoff picture.
The Los Angeles Kings, who are desperate to add scoring punch (dead last in the NHL in scoring at 2.07 goals per game), might have been the most excited team to see their name on the Nash wish list. The Kings sit tied for seventh with 65 points in the Western Conference with the Phoenix Coyotes. The Calgary Flames loom in ninth only two points behind the Kings for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Pierre Lebrun of ESPN reported on Friday that the Kings are dangling young defenseman Jack Johnson as trade bait in front of GMs to sweeten the pot in their efforts to acquire a top-line forward like Nash or his teammate Jeff Carter.
Lebrun also reported via NHL.com's "Rumblings" video that team executives around the league have heard that acquiring Nash may require unloading three to five pieces from their organization in order to acquire the highly skilled forward. Lebrun added that this is "essentially emptying the cupboard" in order to get Nash.
The Kings have enough pieces to offer for Nash. The Blue Jackets need a lot of help to improve their team and have lots of holes to fill. The Kings could possibly offer potential future stars in Johnson or fellow defensemen Drew Doughty and Slava Voynov, goalie Jonathan Bernier, or forwards Dustin Penner or Andrei Loktionov.
Would this be too high a price to pay to get the high-scoring winger that the Kings sorely need to possibly just make and, more ambitiously, make a deep playoff run?
Would Jeff Carter be a better choice and fit for the Kings?
According to SportingNews.com, the 27-year-old Nash is signed through the 2017-2018 season and would cost a team an annual cap hit of $7.8 million.
Jack Johnson has a seven-year, $30.5 million contract, so unloading Johnson to get Nash would alleviate some of the cap hit the Kings would annually receive in order to sign Nash.
Compare that to Carter's contract of $58 million over 11 years (signed through the 2021-2022 season) which amounts to an annual cap hit of $5.2 million per year, saving the Kings $2.6 million per year in cap space.
What players on the Kings would have to go in order to acquire Carter? I would speculate that the Kings might not have to depart with one of their top two defensemen in Johnson or Doughty, but would have to still part with Bernier and a combination of other trade pieces in maybe Penner, Loktionov and possibly draft picks.
Being able to keep players with very high upsides in Johnson and Doughty would be a benefit in trading for Carter over trading for the more expensive Nash.
Who is the better player: Nash or Carter?
Clearly, it's Nash, who has the most goals (277) in fewer seasons (eight-plus) than any other player in the NHL other than Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, who has 324 goals in six-plus seasons. Prior to this season, Nash averaged 32 goals over his previous eight campaigns.
Nash has essentially had to do it all by himself on a team that has only played postseason hockey once ('08-'09) in team history.
Carter, on the other hand, has had some prolific goal-scoring seasons as well. Before this year, he had netted 157 goals in six seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, averaging 26 goals a season.
As recently as the 2010-2011 season, Carter scored as many as 36 goals and tallied 46 in the 2008-2009 season.
Would Nash's offensive output be that much better than Carter's? Enough to want to empty the cupboard and have the Kings dump a ton of young talent? It would seem that the price to pay for Nash would be exceedingly high, but to evaluate the acquisition of Nash would take time and would necessitate evaluating this year's team success and the success of teams in the future.
There is another thing to consider, which depending on how you look at it, could be a positive or negative situation in acquiring Carter.
Carter is very good friends with current Los Angeles Kings forward Mike Richards, who played with Carter for six seasons on the Flyers. James O'Brien of hockeytalk.com reported two unnamed Flyers opined that Richards and Carter were shipped out of town because of their hard-partying ways.
If the Kings got Carter, this could be very bad for the performance of both players assuming they continue their ways. But it could also unite two very good friends, thereby motivating them to achieve on a higher level displayed by both so far in the 2011-2012 season.
Carter could be rejuvenated by getting moved to a team that still has playoff hopes.
A colleague recently mused that he would rather have Carter than Nash for much of the same reasons as I have outlined above and also because "most players attitudes are smoothed over when they're winning."
In order to save young talent and money and to re-energize two very good players having disappointing seasons, the Los Angeles Kings would be better off trading for Jeff Carter over Rick Nash.