Thoughts on Rick Nash…and the Trade that Isn’t (Yet)

Posted by AlisonL on July 12, 2012
Columbus Blue Jackets, Roster Talk, Trade News

Many of our esteemed blogger colleagues have already ruminated long and poetic on the many complexities of the pending Rick Nash trade. What has been interesting to watch is the changing perspectives on this scenario from the non-CBJ affiliated fans and media. The headlines have long been “Rick Nash Deserves Better than Columbus”, “Trade Rick Nash”, “Rick Nash is Held Back by Everything in Blue Jackets Land”. But, in recent weeks, we’ve seen a new story line… “the price is too high”, “Nash isn’t that good”, “Nash is overpaid”.

Many Blue Jackets fans – even those who have long demanded Nash’s ouster – have seen this as a rallying cry. How dare we consider Nash to be less than the All-Star we’ve long heard him to be. However, battered as we are by last season, doubt has started to creep in and now, people are considering the possibility that Nash stays in Columbus. Maybe he just wasn’t that good after all, maybe we can’t get anything of value back.

So let’s strip the fandom, and the record, of our team away for a second and consider this situation. And let’s be careful to consider what has been shared as fact versus conjecture. What do we know?

    • Rick Nash has approached CBJ leadership about being traded for the purpose of “bettering the team”
    • Rick Nash has an NTC/NMC in his current contract and has submitted a list of teams for which he would waive said clause
    • Offers have been made & teams have expressed interest
    • Scott Howson will stand by his pre-determined standard for what is acceptable return for Rick Nash
    • The Blue Jackets organization has an almost historic reputation for being tight-lipped about any movements and has often been known to zig when everyone is expecting the zag

When we look at these puzzle pieces, it’s easier to see that it’s not necessarily a situation of Nash’s value being diminished – or Howson’s asking price being “too high” – perhaps its that the puzzle pieces just don’t fit…yet. There’s a reason that lawyers often rise to the top of organizations – its because this is an exercise in negotiations; and negotiations have their own special set of guidelines and rules that have nothing to do with hockey.

Consider this: perhaps the best offer yet did come from Ottawa or [insert possible blockbuster trade here that’s just not from a team on the list]. Assume this deal easily equals – if not exceeds – the estimated “value” of Rick Nash. But Ottawa [or the mystery team] is not on Nash’s list. So there may be teams who meet Nash’s asking price on a daily basis – they just aren’t an acceptable destination for the Columbus Captain. This leaves us at perceived value still being high, just a mismatch for the trading partner.

And now consider the ever important “source”. As I pointed out above, the Blue Jackets and Howson are notoriously quiet about their dealings – almost to a fault. And the CBJ organization – nor any NHL organization – has formally spoken on any Nash deals (why would they?). The news we hear is always from “a source”. Who is “a source”?  Twitter has theorized it could be anyone from a GM involved in trade dealings to possibly an equipment manager who is responsible for changing out jerseys. While all of that is possible, when we consider the role – and speed – of today’s media, its not unlikely that some information in the media is merely a tool in the negotiations of the deal. While a lot – a LOT – of these Nash trade rumors have proven to be flat out erroneous, consider teams that DO want Nash, but can’t meet the price (or at present are not willing to meet the price). Its more than possible these teams are simply trying to force Howson’s hand to lower the asking price. Hey, if I’m Glen Sather, I want to get as much as I can while giving as little as I can, if I can sway opinion that Nash isn’t worth Kreider, let alone Kreider plus more, I WIN. Or perhaps, I am Brian Burke. Right now, my team doesn’t even have a place at the table no matter how much I offer. If I can sway opinion that Nash isn’t worth that much, and Nash really is desperate to get out of Columbus, perhaps now he considers expanding his list.

Suffice it to say that while information is good, often there is information overload. Nash remains one of only four active players to score 30 or more goals each of the last 5 seasons (with Kovalchuk, Ovechkin and Iginla); and arguably, with his history and his Team Canada performance, Nash is still a highly valued hockey player. Nash is also one of the few players with a lifetime contract that doesn’t have years tacked onto the end to circumvent the salary cap.  Nash’s 8 year contract has a higher cap hit, but the term of his contract covers only years during which it’s almost certain he will play (compared to Parise, for example, whose final five years dwindle in dollars only to lower the impact on the salary cap and Parise is not as likely to finish the term of that deal). If you write Nash’s current contract as Parise’s was written, i.e. add 5 years to turn it into a 13 year term, it reduces his cap hit from $7.8MM to $5.5MM while the total financial impact is still the same. Suddenly, Nash doesn’t look so overpaid, rather, his contract simply didn’t try to circumvent the rules.

What we are watching play out is simply a lot of negotiating tactics (and sometimes rumor mongering and attention grabbing). At the end of the day, if a team really wants Nash, they will find a way to meet Howson’s demands. If Nash really wants out of Columbus, he’ll expand the list. If Howson really wants Nash off the roster, he’ll lower his requirements for a trade. Until then, watch the jockeying. Its all negotiating 101, we just happen to have a front row seat.

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