Playing in New York brings a new level of scrutiny. Just ask Rick Nash. From my vantage point, no player has received more ill will from Rangers fans than Nash over the last few years, because of his contract. He is the highest paid skater on the Rangers, with a cap hit of $7.8 million per year. Only Henrik Lundqvist has a bigger hit at $8.5 million a year.
Nash was traded to New York in the summer of 2012 with the hopes and expectations of bringing the Rangers the Stanley Cup. That has not happened. The Rangers have been contenders, but that has been attributed more to team depth than the play of Nash.
This upcoming offseason will mark the first time in his career where he becomes an unrestricted free agent. It’s uncharted territory for the veteran, who will be 34 by the time free agency begins in July of next year. This is a new, more personal, challenge for Nash, who has underwhelmed over the past two seasons.
Nash on a Downward Trend
Nash is tied for the team lead in shots on goal this season with 39, so he’s had his chances. Every game, he is noticeable on offense, yet his finishing leaves a lot to be desired. Up to this point, Nash only has one point – a goal he scored against the New Jersey Devils on October 14.
Nash's goal to get #NYR on the board.
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) October 15, 2017
On the goal, he went to the front of the net. There, he received a great pass from David Desharnais, who has looked good this season, and buried it to give the Rangers a rare lead this season. But what was not rare was the fact the Rangers went on to lose that game.
Through ten games, having only one point obviously does not bode well for the remaining 72 games this season. Looking back, his last two seasons have also been poor. But this one would be the worst of them all if he continues to not produce. He combined for 127 games over the last two years, but only managed 38 goals and 36 assists. A mere 74 points. The fact the Rangers have been as good as they have while getting such little production from Nash is almost remarkable. For that price tag, they should be getting a lot more production. For some perspective, the St. Louis Blues pay Vladimir Tarasenko less than the Rangers pay Nash. And Tarasenko tallied 75 points last season. Now that’s bang for your buck.
Poor Playoff Production
In his time with the Rangers, Nash has played in 73 playoff games. He has netted 14 goals and 24 assists in that span, which is good for 38 points. Overall, that’s not awful. Points in the playoffs are more difficult to come by than in the regular season. But again, this goes back to his price. For that money, the Rangers expect more production in high-pressure situations.
Perhaps his most glaring postseason omission was in 2014, when the Rangers made the Stanley Cup Final. In the first 20 games of that postseason, Nash tallied 10 points. However, in the five-game series against the Los Angeles Kings, Nash did not get on the score sheet one time. No goals. No assists. Nothing. The Rangers held a lead in four of the five games, yet only managed to win once. A goal or two from their top guy could have nabbed another win or two and maybe even turned the series around.
The Possibility of Trading Nash
It is no secret that this season is going terribly for the Rangers, as well as for Nash. If things do not turn around soon in New York, the Rangers could look to move Nash, who is on the last year of his contract. Sure, the Rangers did make Nash an alternate captain just last season, but they have a bunch of players with expiring contracts who hold more value than the aging Nash. Brady Skjei, J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes, and Jimmy Vesey are all restricted free agents at the end of the season and the money gained from Nash’s contract could go a long way in keeping those younger players.
If the Rangers end up trading Rick Nash, then they are most likely signifying a shift in their contention this season. They entered the season considering themselves contenders, but seem a long way from contending at the moment. With Nash’s current struggles, perhaps his market is somewhat limited. But a young team looking to make the playoffs could use his veteran presence and the Rangers could get an asset or two for the future.
Nash is set to play his 1,000th NHL game on Thursday night against the winless Arizona Coyotes. The experience is there for Nash, but the production is not. For now, he is just another struggling player on the Rangers. If he and the rest of the squad can’t turn things around quickly, then more moves may be in the Rangers’ future.
I cover the Rangers for The Hockey Writers. I have written for the Rangers previously at Fansided and my school paper at Brooklyn College. I graduated with a BA in English at Stony Brook University in 2012 and an MA in Media Studies at Brooklyn College in 2015. For someone who is 50% Finnish, I sure do love Henrik Lundqvist.