Rick Nash, Shea Weber Will Create an Atlantic Power Shift for New Jersey Devils

Robert TheodorsonSenior Analyst IJuly 23, 2012

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 22:  Rick Nash #61 of the Columbus Blue Jackets celebrates a goal against goalie Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on December 22, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The Atlantic Division just got a lot tougher to play against, and the party might not be over if the Nashville Predators decide that they can't afford to keep Shea Weber.

The long-awaited trade rumor of the summer finally came to fruition when the New York Rangers acquired Rick Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets will receive Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky, two versatile forwards who have hurt the Devils plenty in the past. Columbus will also receive defensive prospect Tim Erixon and a first-round pick. 

Since being drafted by the Blue Jackets in the 2002 NHL entry draft, Nash has spent every year of his NHL career with the club that drafted him. 

Now, he's bringing his 289 goals and 547 points to the Atlantic, a division that sent four teams to the playoffs last season. 

It seems like Columbus GM Scott Howson finally came to his senses after realizing nobody was going to come even close to meeting his outrageous demands. Howson had previously requested a package from the Rangers centered around defenseman Michael Del Zotto and forwards Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider.

Nash, who has scored 30 or more goals in his past five seasons straight, brings some serious firepower to a Rangers club that already has Marian Gaborik. Only time will tell if Ilya Kovalchuk can outgun Nash, the two of whom shared the 2004 Maurice Rocket Richard Trophy along with Jarome Iginla for most goals in a season. 

Now that the Nash trade is history, the Nashville Predators are on the clock.

Waiting for Chris Pronger's health to return and concussion symptoms to diminish apparently wasn't in Philadelphia's plans. Instead, they elected to offer Shea Weber a huge front-loaded contract that will come with an annual cap hit of just over $7.8 million per season.

Weber's offer sheet was signed on July 19, and with only one week to sign him, the Predators have burned precious time twiddling their thumbs instead of deciding to match the offer sheet, which they should have done hours—nay, minutes—after it was signed. 

If Weber comes to Philadelphia, the Flyers' new defensive core might be able to outmatch, and certainly outscore, the Devils. 

All signs point to the Predators letting their captain and franchise player walk, and opting to take Philadelphia's compensatory draft picks, picks which in all likelihood will not amount to the two-time Norris Trophy candidate. 

With a power shift in full swing in the Atlantic, New Jersey's ownership and money woes are rearing their ugly head. After signing no new free agents or making any serious trades, the Devils are in trouble of getting bullied around by two teams who desperately want to be in the position the Devs found themselves in last year.

New Jersey needs to solve their internal problems sooner rather than later. If they don't, they risk seeing more or less of the same happen within the Atlantic, or the Eastern Conference in general, while they get left behind squabbling about who owns what and who owes money to whom.