New Ranger Rick Nash’s Effect on The Eastern Conference

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

By Benjamin Woodward (@_BWoodward)

After months of speculation and enough rumors to fill the HockeyyInsiderr’s twitter feed for an entire calendar year, Rick Nash has finally been traded. The former Columbus Blue Jackets captain was dealt to the New York Rangers on Monday in exchange for a package centered around two-way pivot Brandon Dubinsky. The complete deal looked like this:

To New York: F Rick Nash, D Steven Delisle , 2013 Third Round Pick

To Columbus: F Brandon Dubinsky, F Artem Anisimov, D Tim Erixon, 2013 First Round Pick

On the surface, this looks to be a fair market price for a player who clearly had no desire to return to Ohio this fall. However, after setting the initial asking price absurdly high, General Manager Scott Howson set himself up to fail. In the nearly five-month-long stretch from the February 27 NHL trade deadline until now, Howson was believed to be asking for names like Jeff Skinner (Carolina), Tyler Seguin (Boston), and Ryan McDonagh (New York Rangers), in return for the first overall pick in the 2002 Entry Draft.

Ultimately, the Blue Jackets secured themselves a reasonable return for the five-time all-star, receiving three players that will make an immediate impact at the NHL level next season, along with an additional first round pick in what is perceived to be one of the deepest drafts in recent memory. Forwards Dubinsky and Anisimov could both see an exponential increase in point production with expanded roles in Columbus. New York native Tim Erixon is a swift-skating defenseman with a high hockey-IQ and the ability to put up a large number of points and quarterback a power-play unit. The addition of Erixon to a defense core that already includes Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski, David Savard, and 2012 second overall pick Ryan Murray, appears to put the Blue Jackets’ back-end in great shape for at least the next half-decade.

The merits of this deal for the Blueshirts are fairly obvious: it allows them to keep up with the ongoing arms race that has engulfed the Eastern Conference this summer. With a healthy Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh, and the Philadelphia Flyers’ possible acquisition of all-star blueliner Shea Weber, the top of the Eastern Conference has become much tougher to navigate. There is no denying the impressive skill and depth that lies with the Rangers’ forward core, especially after the acquisition of a former 40-goal scorer in Rick Nash. Let’s take a look here at how New York’s top-nine stacks up against the four other teams that I consider to be “elite” in the Eastern Conference (lines subject to change).

New York Rangers

Marian Gaborik – Brad Richards – Rick Nash

Ryan Callahan – Derek Stepan – Carl Hagelin

Chris Kreider – Brian Boyle – Taylor Pyatt

Philadelphia Flyers

Scott Hartnell – Claude Giroux – Jakub Voracek

Wayne Simmonds – Sean Couturier – Danny Briere

Brayden Schenn – Max Talbot – Matt Read

Boston Bruins

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Tyler Seguin

Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Nathan Horton

Rich Peverley – Chris Kelly – Jordan Caron

Pittsburgh Penguins

Pascal Dupuis – Sidney Crosby – Chris Kunitz

James Neal – Evgeni Malkin – Tyler Kennedy

Eric Tangradi – Brandon Sutter – Matt Cooke

Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Troy Brouwer

Brooks Laich – Mike Ribiero – Marcus Johansson

Jay Beagle – Matt Hendricks – Jason Chimera

The strengths of each squad are evident: Philadelphia’s phenomenal team speed, Boston’s size and physicality, Pittsburgh and Washington’s all-world talent and New York’s two-way prowess. I’ll dive into extensive comparisons at a later date, but for today, I leave you with two questions.

1.) Which of these five groups of forwards to you believe to be the best?

2.) Will the Rangers’ acquisition of Nash force the hand of the other Eastern Conference squads in making a blockbuster deal of their own?

 

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