2012 New York Rangers: Why Team Must Chase Rick Nash This Offseason
And it is the consensus amongst the masses.
Sitting around a barroom table, our drinks empty, a round table of hockey experts were assembled ready to discuss the day's most pressing issue.
It was the first intermission of the fifth game of the Eastern Conference finals. The New York Rangers were down 3-1 to the New Jersey Devils and hope was low.
The assemblage—myself, my father, my cousin and a random guy who seemed knowledgeable—had just one question on our minds: What the heck is wrong with this New York Rangers team?
While the team roared through the regular season, finishing with an Eastern Conference leading 109 points, they slogged through the playoffs, beating the Senators in seven and needing a triple overtime and a game-tying goal with six seconds left to beat the Capitals in seven.
But the Senators and Capitals were flawed teams. It was clear that they were not Cup contenders.
The Devils, on the other hand, were.
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The Rangers finally met a team that was its equal. They had great goaltending, a great defense. And in fact, they had a better offense.
Watching the first period of Game 5, where the Devils completely dominated, one thing was clear: The Devils had something the Rangers didn't.
The random guy who seemed knowledgeable then chimed in. He said, bluntly, "we need someone like Ilya Kovalchuk."
"But what about Marian Gaborik?" my cousin asked.
"He's good," I replied. "But does he instill fear in the opposing defense?"
The table shook their heads no.
"Then he's not enough," I continued. "They need more. They need a lethal weapon."
In other words, they need Rick Nash.
Nash is an elite offensive talent who has been hiding in obscurity playing for the horrid Columbus Blue Jackets. This past season, he scored 30 goals and added 29 assists. This is while playing with very little talent around him. He has a career high of 41.
Playing in Columbus has not been kind to Nash. The former first overall pick in 2002 has not gotten the recognition he deserves. But he is an elite goal scorer. Being a consistent 30-goal scorer playing with marginal talent is more than impressive.
Should the Rangers Trade for Rick Nash?
All that time has taken its toll. Sometime before the trade deadline, Nash famously asked for a trade out of Columbus. The Blue Jackets management went public with that request and shopped Nash.
They wanted a lot. The Rangers, naturally, were interested. But the Jackets asking price proved to be too high.
They wanted a package of Chris Kreider, Michael Del Zotto or Ryan McDonagh, Brandon Dubinsky and a first-round pick, according to Yahoo!. No dice.
Kreider became a playoff sensation. McDonagh is arguably their best defenseman. They were smart not to give up either.
But they need something, desperately.
"We don't have someone who can control the game," my dad interjected. "No one who can come in and just take over."
He was right. While Gaborik is a great offensive talent, and scored 41 goals in the regular season, Rangers fans never get the sense that he's the most dangerous player on the ice. He struggled with injury in the playoffs, and is out until at least November with a torn labrum.
Even with Gaborik, the Rangers have a dearth of scoring. Ryan Callahan finished second on the team with 29 goals, but he is not a dynamic player, more of a hard-working grinder.
And let's not forget about their power play, which scored at a 15.7 percent rate, good for 23rd in the league.
Adding Nash would help the offense drastically.
He is the elite talent that the Rangers need, someone who can score from anywhere. Playing with much improved talent, there's no reason he can't challenge for 50 goals. He's a power forward at 6'4", yet also possesses tremendous speed. He's a complete player.
And yes, trading for Nash will be expensive. If the Blue Jackets don't want the package they wanted in February, they'll want something close.
Kreider and McDonagh seem off-limits. They were tremendous in the playoffs and trading both of them would be a mistake. Del Zotto and Dubinsky, however, are more expendable. Dubinsky had a rough season and Del Zotto struggled mightily in the Eastern Conference Finals. A package of Dubinsky, Del Zotto, Derek Stepan, a first-round pick and a prospect might be enticing to the Blue Jackets.
Nash could play on a line with Brad Richards, and there's no doubting that they could make some beautiful music. When Gaborik returns, the three could form one of the best lines in hockey.
The Rangers had a remarkable season. No one expected them to reach the Eastern Conference Finals. It was a tremendous ride.
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But to be so close makes it even harder. And if the Rangers are to get over the top, they'll need to improve their scoring.
The Stanley Cup champion Kings could send in waves of scorers. From Anze Kopitar to Mike Richards, from Dustin Brown to Jeff Carter, they had elite talent throughout their roster.
Even the Devils had two elite offensive players. Behind Ilya Kovalchuk is Zach Parise.
To win in the NHL, you need at least two elite offensive players. If you have one, opposing teams gang up and force other players to step up. The Rangers just didn't have the firepower to overcome that.
"So who is available?" my cousin asked. The round table thought for a few moments.
"Rick Nash?" the seemingly knowledgeable guy offered.
Yeah. Rick Nash, we all thought. That would be perfect.
The Rangers ended up coming back in that Game 5, sending the Madison Square Garden crowd into a frenzy. But they didn't win. After tying it up early in the third period, the Devils scored late. The Rangers couldn't push it over the top. They didn't have that one player.
They didn't have Rick Nash.
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