Thursday, February 16, 2012

Canucks after Rick Nash?

As the NHL Trade deadline rapidly approaches on February 27th, many are speculating that the Canucks will be active players.  Most recently, TSN's NHL Panel and Eklund have been suggesting that they may be in the market for Rick Nash, the disgruntled (disenchanted?) Columbus Blue Jackets' forward.  But are the Canucks actually serious players in the Rick Nash sweepstakes?

I don't think so.

Don't get me wrong, Nash is one of the most underrated and under-utilized players in the league.  He proved in the Olympics right here in Vancouver that he is a solid two-way player with game breaking speed, power and skills, but how does he possibly fit within the Canucks' plans?

It's easy to slot him onto a line alongside the Sedin twins or Ryan Kesler, but let's be honest - there are quite a few reasons why this deal will likely not happen.

1) Canucks barely have any salary cap room:  Rick Nash earns $7.8 million per season, and the Canucks simply do not have that kind of cash handy to lock up a forward like that long term.  With the Sedins and Kesler and David Booth already making solid money, it would be tough to invest that much in another forward and still maintain solid goaltending and defense.  You might also want to consider the money invested in Roberto Luongo, Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis and others.

2) The Canucks would upset their salary structure: Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa, and the Sedin twins have all taken pay cuts.  They are all in Vancouver for less money.  On the open market, they would all command 15-20% more than they're currently earning on their present contracts.  Trading for Nash could really upset the applecart. Then again, they did sign Mats Sundin.

3)  Canucks won't part with their future or depth: Anyone looking at the trade from the Canucks' perspective needs to also look at the deal from the Columbus Blue Jackets perspective.  What could the Canucks give to the Blue Jackets?  Goaltender Cory Schneider? Probably.  Cody Hodgson? Probably.  Mason Raymond? Perhaps.  Too many of the proposed deals have involved spare parts that Columbus would not be interested in, or it would mortgage the Canucks' future for a brief window of opportunity.

All in all, the Canucks' main concerns at the deadline should be:

1) Depth & Size up front: Mason Raymond is rumoured to be on the block, but I doubt he will move.  The Canucks would benefit from obtaining some additional experience and grit.  Travis Moen from the Habs would be a good addition.

2) Depth & Size on the blueline: The main concern for the Canucks at the deadline will probably be adding experience and depth on the blue line.  If Sami Salo gets hurt again, the Canucks' top-4 looks a bit suspect.  Bieksa, Hamhuis and Edler are a solid trio, but relying upon Aaron Rome, Andrew Alberts, Keith Ballard or the youngster Chris Tanev to play top-4 minutes in a playoff series is a scary proposition that Canucks' GM Mike Gillis would surely like to avoid.

So, when you consider that the Canucks would likely have to dump salary to land Rick Nash, the likely source of that salary would be Keith Ballard.  But, their blueline is already a bit thin as is, so don't expect that to happen until the off-season at the earliest.

Expect Nash (if he moves at all) to head West to Los Angeles.  Some speculate he could land in New York, but with the New York Rangers sitting pretty atop the Eastern Conference, why would you mess with a good thing?

Los Angeles have made bold moves for Dustin Penner, and Simon Gagne, and were apparently very involved in the Ilya Kovalchuk fiasco.  The Kings are desperate to make the playoffs and their administration may be on a short leash.  They have assets to trade including goaltender Jonathan Bernier, and defenseman Jack Johnson, so expect them to be a key player.

As for the Canucks?  Expect some tinkering, but no blockbusters.  Either way, Canucks fans sure would love to see Nash do this again in Rogers Arena

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