From a marketability standpoint, the National Hockey League is in a much better place than it was in on Monday morning and while he still has the CBA negotiations looming, commissioner Gary Bettman almost certainly was wearing his infamous smirk after Rick Nash was traded to the New York Rangers.
The Rangers, who were a chic pick to raise the Stanley Cup in June before running out of steam against New Jersey, addressed their biggest need when they acquired Nash. He might only have 4 games of playoff experience but during his 9 NHL regular seasons, the dude proved he can score. At 6 ft 4 inches, he’s the big winger the blueshirts have needed that can dominate the sidewall and make opposing coaches nervous. Imagine how Peter DeBoer would’ve felt during the playoffs if he would’ve had to formulate a game plan against Rangers team that can line up Nash and Gaborik on the wings next to Richards in the final minute of a tied game. Oh yeah and they have some guy named Ryan Callahan.
Along with John Tortorella, the biggest winner in the deal is the league. Now, along with Lundqvist, Bettman and his cronies have three of the NHL’s biggest stars in the premiere American market. Like his former boss at the NBA, the commissioner can now relish in the newfound marketability of his team that plays at Madison Square Garden. With a championship in Los Angeles and Jonathan Toews jerseys on the rack in Chicago, Nash almost completes the leagues Kobe/Rose/Carmelo profit dream. Now all they need is a trade that takes Bobby Ryan’s talents to Toronto.
Brandon Dubinsky is a nice player but will never make Blue Jackets fans forget their 5-time All-Star and 40-goal scorer. As bad as they needed scoring even before Nash was traded, there’s reason to believe Columbus could improve next season. The distraction Jeff Carter then Nash caused led to a lost season. The team might be a bit of an odds-and-sods collection of B-players but they now have the chance to define themselves as a chippy group that buys into a new team-first concept. Atlanta improved after Kovalchuk left just like the Cleveland Cavaliers had a strong first half of the season post-Decision.
Nash, 28, is in the prime of a career that’s already seen him flourish on an awful team. All signs point toward the upcoming few seasons being off the charts for the former number one pick in the draft. Better yet for fans that would put off their grocery trip for the night their team played Columbus, it’s like there’s a whole new player in the league.
When the biggest markets are plugged in to their hockey teams it makes for revenue and a higher degree national excitement. When LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwayne Wade on the Miami Heat it polarized the sports world but more importantly it had people talking. Opposing teams would circle the date they were scheduled to play Miami before the Heat even won anything. The same will almost certainly happen this year in the NHL when teams play the Suter/Parise-led Minnesota Wild and now the Rangers.
Jeff Stone is the disgraced former captain of his JV hockey team and a reporter at the International Business Times. He has a signed rookie card of Martin Brodeur and a blog at WhenYouPutItThatWay.wordpress.com.