Rick Nash Trade: Predicting How the NY Rangers' Forward Lines Will Look
Though the Rangers will undoubtedly switch up their lines once Marian Gaborik returns from his shoulder injury, Nash will certainly open the season on the top line, along with assistant captain Brad Richards. With the skill of Nash and Richards, John Tortorella will most likely finish out the first line with the speed of either Chris Kreider or Carl Hagelin.
Nash is capable of playing on either wing and the Rangers have a lot of different options to play alongside him. From young speedsters to cool veterans, Tortorella has one of those good problems, in that he has a lot of talented players, but only needs 12 forwards.
Let's take a look at who those 12 forwards may be when Nash and the Rangers open their season against the Stanley Cup champions in L.A. on October 12th.
First Line: Nash, Richards, Hagelin
With Marian Gaborik expected to miss the Rangers first 20 games or so, Nash will occupy the right wing of the first line, along with Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin.
Despite minimal point production during the playoffs, Hagelin did a lot of things well and the speed and energy he brings to a shift creates a lot of space for his linemates.
Tortorella kept him on the first line for most of the playoffs, and I predict he puts Hagelin back on the first line to start the new season.
Richards will be the center and will look to build on his respectable 51.8 faceoff percentage.
All eyes will be on Nash early in the season, but I think the veteran savvy of Richards and the speed and hustle of Hagelin will help Nash adjust seamlessly.
Second Line: Callahan, Stepan, Kreider
If the Rangers didn't get Nash this offseason, Chris Kreider would have faced pressure to score a lot of goals. Even with Nash, Kreider is probably expecting a big season for himself and many Rangers fans wouldn't be surprised if Kreider is one of the team's top contributors.
If Kreider does play on the second line, he'll have the opportunity to play alongside Derek Stepan, the man many expected the Rangers would have to lose to get Nash. Glen Sather wasn't willing to give up the 22-year-old and got Nash anyway, so Stepan will continue developing as a Ranger, which is a good thing for the organization and the fans.
On the right wing will be team captain Ryan Callahan. It makes a lot of sense putting Callahan with a 21-year-old and 22-year-old, because Callahan will not tolerate laziness or inattention, and Kreider and Stepan will learn a lot of good habits from one of the league's best captains.
Line 3: Pyatt, Boyle, Asham
Before Rick Nash made headlines, the Rangers quietly added a couple of veteran forwards with playoff experience. On July 1st, it was Arron Asham and then on July 3rd, Taylor Pyatt.
The 34-year-old Asham has 62 games of playoff experience over 12 seasons, most recently with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The 30-year-old Pyatt is coming off an accomplished season with Phoenix. Pyatt contributed four goals and two assists during the Coyote's run to the western conference finals. He put up 37 points in consecutive seasons for Vancouver from 2006-2008, as well.
6'7" Brian Boyle will most likely be taking faceoffs on the third line. Boyle is one of the tallest in the NHL but he's no slouch with the puck. Boyle scored 21 goals during the 2010-11 campaign and contributed to the Rangers 2012 playoff run with six points.
This is a daunting third line to the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Line 4: Rupp, Halpern, Christian Thomas
Another newly-acquired free agent that can help the Rangers is Jeff Halpern.
Last season, the 36-year-old led the Capitals in faceoff winning percentage and his 58.4 percent success rate ranked fifth in the NHL.
Look for Halpern to be joined by 32-year-old Mike Rupp and 20-year-old rookie Christian Thomas. Thomas put up huge numbers in the OHL, posting 99 points in 66 games in 2010-11, and then 67 points in 55 games this past season, before playing five games for the Connecticut Whale.
Who ends up on the fourth line will be an interesting development, but the Rangers' top nine forwards can match up with any in the NHL.
Care to argue?