Trusting that Rick Nash Will Rebound

The New York Rangers have had Rick Nash for 61 playoff games and thus far the power forward has been just ok posting 33 points in those games. When the Rangers went out and got the big bodied winger the hope was that he could be the kind of player that could take over a game in the postseason and push the team to the finals. A pleasant surprise for New York has been his ability to play on both sides of the puck but the fact is that Nash makes too much money to just be a sound defensive forward.

Nash came into the season with huge expectations after a 42 goal campaign in 2014-2015, but this season he just wasn’t right registering only 15 goals and 21 assists. He did play in 19 fewer games, but the same dominance wasn’t there. Nash also saw his number of shots on goal dip from 304 down to 183. Now with the Rangers on the verge of a transition, they need stay calm and trust that the big man will return to form.

Bouncing Back

Nash didn’t have a great season, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is still one of the most skilled power forwards in the game. The 6’4″ forward has unbelievable hands and an ability to walk through defenses. Following a five game elimination Nash acknowledged that he has to be more consistent, “I still think there was flashes this year where my game was strong I just have to find that consistency

One of those flashes was this beautiful goal against the Boston Bruins, he gets the puck makes a smooth move and Tuukka Rask has no chance.

In 2014-2015 Nash was healthy missing only three games all season, he was also shooting the lights out with a 13.8 shooting percentage. This year he missed a big chunk of time and never seemed right afterward, his 8.2 shooting percentage reflected that struggle. The good news for Nash is that he should see that percentage swing back up next season as it was his lowest scoring rate of his career, I suspect that a little extra rest this offseason will be good for his body that has taken a beating over the years..

The Flip-Side

The fact is that Nash is currently 31 and coming off of his worst season to date, now factor in that he’s the second highest paid player on the team behind Henrik Lundqvist, combined with decent playoff numbers and it becomes easy to see why some fans have called for the big winger to be moved in the offseason. My colleague Tom Dianora wrote a piece analyzing the possibility of trading Nash and explained that he’s “one of the Rangers’ more tradeable assets” considering the fact the team will likely need to spend some money in free agency.

The Rangers will have some key RFA’s to sign this summer with Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller, Dylan McIlrath and Chris Kreider all up for new contracts. The team will also have to replace or resign Dominic Moore, Viktor Stalberg, Dan Boyle, Eric Staal and Keith Yandle; it seems like a stretch for the team to be able to lock in their youth and plug up some holes without finding a way to move salary, and the fact is that the only guy they could probably move and create real cap relief without eating salary is Nash. With him in the back half of his career, this option isn’t out of the question.

The Reality

The notion that Nash is “done” being a dominant player in this league doesn’t add up for me. He’s one of the most well-rounded players in hockey today, and in the playoffs he had a point in four of five games, which tells me that the pendulum is about to swing back the other way for the forward. The Rangers had a funny season filled with inconsistency, and they got eliminated by an excellent Pittsburgh Penguins team, that doesn’t mean they stink and need to gut the roster and start dumping good players for some cap space.

I could understand the panic if he was a lazy player, but that is not the case at all. Number 61 works incredibly hard every shift, and I think that effort will bleed into next year. If the Rangers just hang onto Nash and avoid the glow of acquiring prospects, then they can reap the benefits of his return, not just in scoring, but in defense and leadership.