When the New York Rangers acquired Rick Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky,Tim Erixon and a first-round pick, Rangers fans everywhere were ecstatic. Finally, the Blueshirts were getting an elite scorer to put them over the top.
But, you have to give to get, and the Rangers gave up two core players and one promising one. Was it too much?
And what about the on-ice impacts of losing some of their most important players? Will this trade have some unintended consequences?
Read on to find out why the Rick Nash trade could prove to be a mistake.
Last season, the Rangers had the fifth ranked penalty kill, at 86.2 percent. A lot of things contributed to that, chief among them Henrik Lundqvist.
Yet, the Rangers had a number of top-notch guys on the penalty kill. Two of those guys were Dubinsky and Anisimov.
Dubinsky and Anisimov are excellent penalty killers, using their size and aggressiveness to pressure the puck at the top of the box. They are sound defensively and are threats to take it the other way.
That's not to mention the losses of Brandon Prust and Ruslan Fedetenko, who have new homes due to free agency.
That's four of the top eight penalty killers gone.
Yes, Rick Nash kills penalties, as does newly signed Taylor Pyatt. But can they fill the hole?
The PK groups will probably look something like this:
- Callahan and Richards
- Boyle and Pyatt
- Nash and Stepan
- Jeff Halpern rotating in as necessary.
Is that better than last year's group? Can this group be a top-five ranked penalty kill?
It's tough to say sitting here in September, but the four guys who are no longer there were crucial.
Nash is effective on the kill, but he hasn't done it in recent years as Columbus wanted to save his legs for offense.
He'll have to get reacquainted with the skill quickly.
Brandon Dubinsky is 26. Artem Anisimov is 24. Tim Erixon is 21. A 2013 first-round pick will be 18.
Rick Nash is 28.
That's not to say Nash is old, but the Rangers did trade away a bunch of young guys.
Anisimov is still developing, despite the fact that he's been in the league for a few years. Erixon is a young guy who hasn't yet made his mark on the NHL. Dubinsky is still pretty young.
The issue the Rangers had in the early parts of 2000s was getting old players past their prime. Is Nash past his prime?
No, but he does have less years than, say, Anisimov has or Erixon or a potential first-round pick would.
Trading youth is tough to do, especially when that youth is so promising. If Nash proves to be everything we think he can be, then it's fine. But if not, it's a huge risk.
Let's talk economics, shall we?
The Rangers have a lot of salary committed to a few players. Let's run it down:
- Nash is owed $7.8 million through 2017-2018
- Gaborik is owed $7.5 million through 2013-2014
- Richards is owed $6.6 million through 2020
- Lundqvist is owed $6.875 million through 2013-2014
That's approximately $29 million invested in four players. That's not to mention that the Rangers are going to have to re-sign Lundqvist, Ryan Callahan, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi in the coming years.
While it's worth it if you win, you do not want a situation where you have aging, ineffective players who you have to buy out. Think Bobby Holik or Chris Drury. Or, you might have to shove them in the minors like they did with Wade Redden.
All that money is a risk.
We know the Rangers can afford it, but the amount of money for the long terms is troublesome. Is Rick Nash going to be effective in 2017? What about Brad Richards in 2019?
The Rangers are clearly built to win now, but the eyes have to be on the future. And the future is a bit cloudy on Broadway.
Since we don't know what's going to come out of the NHL-NHLPA negotiations, the cap remains very much in flux. The Rangers are not really in a good position to come out strong in the next few years.
Money's always an issue, but the Rangers could struggle once some of these big-money players start to decline. Adding Nash only worsens that problem.
Observers of the Rangers know that Brandon Dubinsky is a gritty, "heart-and-soul" type player.
Yes, he had a tough year, with only 10 goals and 24 assists, but he is always willing to throw the body, drop the gloves and mix it up.
He's in the middle of everything, and quite frankly, he is a bit of a pest. But teams like having a pest, not playing against one. The Rangers don't really have a pest.
Arron Asham could be up for the job, but he's aging and is only signed for two years.
With Dubinsky and Prust gone, the Rangers lost a lot of grit. Rick Nash doesn't really offer much grit.
The Rangers made their mark as a physical, hard-working team, but trading away Dubinsky loses some of that. They'll have to find it somewhere else.
Tim Erixon had minimal time with the Rangers. In 18 games, he had two assists and finished minus-2.
In 52 games with the Connecticut Whale, Erixon had three goals and 30 assists. That's not bad for his first year in North America.
While Erixon hasn't had too much experience under his belt, he is highly thought of. Here's what Hockey's Future had to say about him:
Erixon is a great puck moving defenseman who has the ability to work the point on the power play. He isn’t physical, but has decent stick work at both ends of the ice. He is a two-way defenseman with a gifted wrist shot.
Erixon has a nice skill-set, but until he plays more games, we just don't know. He could become a bust or become a star.
Still, it's hard to find good, young, home-grown defenseman. To get a star player, you either need to import him, a la Zdeno Chara, or develop him. The latter is cheaper.
The Rangers defense corps is almost exclusively home-grown, and they're better off for it.
Losing Erixon hurts. For one, there are concerns about Michael Sauer and the lingering effects from his concussion. Ryan McDonagh's contract is up in 2013-2014. Dan Girardi's contract is up in 2014-2015. Marc Staal's is up the next year.
The Rangers will have some decisions to make; losing someone like Erixon only makes those choices harder.