Blue Jackets Sign Riley Nash

The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed a player named Nash. No, it’s not former Jackets star Rick Nash, but it is nevertheless an effective player.

Columbus agreed to terms with center Riley Nash on a three-year contract, per TSN’s Darren Dreger. The deal carries an average annual value (AAV) of $2.4 million.

Nash Has Career Year With Bruins

In another silly free agency season that has seen the likes of Ryan Reaves, Jay Beagle, and Antoine Roussel all receive multi-year contracts with AAVs ranging between $2.75 million and $3.25 million, the Jackets made one of the better-value signings of the day in inking Nash for three years at less than $3 million per.

Nash, 29, has seemingly flown under the radar for years now, but experienced his best NHL season this past year when he tallied 15 goals and 26 assists in 76 games with the Boston Bruins. Nash really settled into his niche as Boston’s third-line center in his second year with the club. Prior to signing with the Bruins two years ago, the right-shooting Nash had spent his entire NHL career with the Carolina Hurricanes, totaling 31 goals and 50 assists in 242 games with them.

Riley Nash
Nash began his career with the Carolina Hurricanes. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Nash, who was born in Alberta but grew up in British Columbia, was an important part of the Bruins’ success this past season even though he was not typically one of the headline-grabbing names. Besides the career-best point production that gave the team some punch deep into its lineup, Nash handled tough defensive minutes, as evidenced by his offensive zone-start ratio of 47.56 percent (the sixth-lowest among all Bruins forwards with at least 100 minutes of total ice time).

Despite that, he still managed a solid Corsi-for percentage of 52.6 percent. Nash also had the second-most ice time (144 minutes and 34 seconds) on the penalty kill out of all Boston forwards. He was an integral part of a penalty-killing unit that finished third in the league with a success rate of 83.7 percent.

Nash Helps Solidify Blue Jackets’ Depth

With the Blue Jackets, Nash can slot right into the third-line center role, presumably behind Alexander Wennberg and rising youngster Pierre-Luc Dubois. Nick Foligno could move to the wing on a full-time basis.

That being said, Nash is a versatile enough player to move up and down the lineup and even spend some time on the wing himself if needed. He provides offensive punch and trustworthy defense and penalty killing at a fairly cost-effective price.

Riley Nash
Nash adds depth and versatility to the Blue Jackets’ lineup. (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen also highlighted Nash’s right shot (something the Jackets do not have at the center position) and abilities in the face-off dot.

“It’s going to be great to add a center, a right-handed center that we don’t have, and I think we got it done with a contract that we likeboth the value and the term,” said Kekalainen. “You need the right-handed center for that side of the ice, for the face-offs. It’s really hard to go against a right-handed center, on his strong side, with a left-handed guy who’s on his weak side. So, when you look at his stats, at his face-offs, you can see a real clear correlation.”

Many contracts signed on July 1 end up looking pretty bad down the road. Look for this one to buck that trend.