The Columbus Blue Jackets currently own the worst record in the NHL – and it’s not even close. The NHL’s newest expansion franchise has all but mathematically been eliminated from a playoff berth this season and with the trade deadline looming, it is inevitable that Columbus will look to sell what little talent it has on its roster. Perhaps the biggest chip the team is holding is 27-year-old right winger Rick Nash and there are plenty of teams calling to inquire about the five-time All-Star.
One team that keeps coming up in the Nash conversation is the Philadelphia Flyers. Nash might not be a household name in Philadelphia but with rumors circulating on various blogs and social media outlets, Philadelphians are beginning to learn. But the Flyers don’t necessarily need a proven goal scorer and probably should focus their money elsewhere – like defense. Ever since captain and star defenseman Chris Pronger suffered a concussion back on Nov. 19, guys like Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros have stepped up their play and their amount of time on the ice but the Flyers’ weakness to protect the front of the net has been exposed time and time again. It’s clear they need help.
And let’s not forget the goaltender situation which – despite dropping $51 million on Ilya Bryzgalov last summer – is still as big an issue as it has been since the days of Ron Hextall. But with Sergei Bobrovsky backing him up, it’s doubtful any changes will occur between the crease.
Nash has been the most recent name surrounding the Flyers, after buzz surrounding soon-to-be free agents Shea Weber and Ryan Suter cooled down – perhaps due to the fact the Nashville Predators are fifth in the Western Conference standings, trailing the red-hot Detroit Red Wings by just eight points. For the Flyers, there is plenty of collateral that could be used to bolster the lineup as the playoff push is in full effect. Despite suffering plenty of injuries on offense, Philadelphia has managed to score 3.23 goals-per-game, which is second in the league behind only the Boston Bruins. If the defense isn’t available come the trade deadline, why not add to the offensive side of the puck?
The news of Nash’s departure from Columbus has been making its way around the league for weeks now but it was Elliotte Friedman who reported on CBC that many teams think Columbus trading Nash has Flyers written all of it. The idea of the Flyers getting Nash would bring the hope that the Flyers solid-but-average defense could be carried by such a potent offense.
And Philadelphia has plenty of young talent it could give up – even with former second overall pick James van Riemsdyk close to a return from a concussion he suffered on Jan. 14. VanRiemsdyk has not yet blossomed in the NHL – though he showed glimpses last postseason – and it begs the question of how much longer the team is willing to wait for him to come into his own. With the 21-year-old pretty much off the table thanks to the injury, there are plenty of other options to offer to Columbus.
Philadelphia has 10 other players who are 25-years-old or younger, which is a bit of a negative when the playoffs come around. More often than not, experience – along with a hot goaltender – is the reason for a team making it deep into the playoffs. The Flyers’ rookies this season have been a big part of their success. Right winger Matt Read, center Sean Couturier and center Brayden Schenn have to be on Columbus’ wish list.
At 25, Read put in his time in college and through hard work, earned a spot on the team last fall and has since been in the running for the Calder Trophy. Couturier – the eighth overall pick in last year’s draft – had an immediate impact as well but in a bit of a different way. Though he has shown he has the ability to score, it was his ability to play defense that helped him earn a spot on the team. It seemed as though he was here to stay when coach Peter Laviolette told the media that the 19-year-old played the best defense of any forward on the Flyers. Schenn hasn’t quite been so lucky. He was once touted as the one of the top NHL prospects while a member of the Los Angeles Kings’ franchise but has suffered several setbacks this season, in the form of injuries. Schenn finally got healthy at the turn of the calendar year and recently has been perhaps the Flyers’ best player during the team’s struggles – scoring six goals in the last nine games.
If the Flyers want to acquire Nash, they will need to shed some salary. At a $7.8 million cap hit, he would be the highest paid player on Philadelphia – along with 25 of the other 28 NHL teams that could potentially trade for him. He would also don the orange and black for quite some time, since he would not be a free agent until 2018. Nash has 18 goals and 39 points in 57 games this season and has never had more than 79 points in his career, though Columbus has never really put talent around their captain.
Other than Zach Parise, there isn’t going to be a whole lot available on the market this offseason, which could raise his stock a great deal since he is a commodity. With so many teams in the playoff hunt, there could be plenty of bids on Nash – who will have a say in where he end up thanks to a no-movement clause in his contract. Let the bidding begin!