So let’s get this straight.
Columbus Blue Jackets’
soon to be former general manager Scott Howson is seeking a king’s ransom for star forward Rick Nash. Key word in that sentence: star.
Notice the absence of the prefix “super?”
Yeah, me too.
And therein lies the problem.
Nash is a very nice player. He’s big, he’s strong, and he’s supremely talented. But he also shies away from physicality and has never surpassed 79 points in a season.
He’s a complimentary player incapable of being “the man” – or so his time in Columbus would illustrate. But that’s all teams have to go by, which makes trading a king’s ransom a big risk.
And with just six teams on Nash’s acceptable destination list, according to his limited no-trade clause, Howson could be digging his own grave.
You see, of the six teams – the Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, San Jose Sharks, Philadelphia Flyers, and New York Rangers – one already appears to be out based on Howson’s doing.
The Red Wings, according to Ansar Khan of MLive.com, made a considerable offer to the Blue Jackets for Nash, but were declined on the premise of not wanting to trade within the Central Division.
Then there were five – and that’s assuming all of the remaining teams are even interested.
But the longer this plays out, there’s an increased risk that the list could shrink even more.
Anaheim Ducks winger Bobby Ryan is on the market, and any team interested in Nash surely is interested in the younger, cheaper Ryan, who also likely won’t cost as much in trade assets.
And two semi-prominent free agents, Shane Doan and Alexander Semin, remain on the market.
Any team that lands Ryan, Doan and/or Semin likely will be out of the running for Nash.
Howson is right to seek a king’s ransom for his franchise’s best player (both currently and historically), but he shouldn’t confuse his franchise’s best player with some of the league’s best players.
His asking price, according an interview with Geno Reda of TSN, is “some NHL forwards…first and foremost.” He doesn’t want defense, which he considers his team’s strong point. And he doesn’t want prospects who will take years to develop, if they develop at all.
But when everything is “exceptionally quiet,” as reports out of Columbus suggest, during a summer with an extremely shallow free agency crop, it might be time for Howson to adjust his asking price or risk having it adjusted for him.
The longer Howson waits, the fewer suitors will exist. The fewer suitors that exist, the smaller the “bidding war” (if there ever was one) will become. The smaller the bidding war becomes, the less teams will be willing to offer.
Consider that, 10 years ago, then-Penguins general manager Craig Patrick – ironically currently serving in a senior advising role to Howson – poked around with trading Jaromir Jagr, turning down offers and seeking a hefty return of prospects. As time went on, Jagr eventually was traded to the Washington Capitals for a package of prospects that never amounted to anything in the NHL.
Sure, situations were slightly different in that Howson wants NHL talent, while Patrick needed to shed NHL salary and wanted prospects. But the overall premise is the same: a star player requests a trade (in and of itself diminishing his trade value) and the general manager seeks a specific return that few teams are willing/able to offer.
The end result: failure. And, as we saw with Patrick, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, eventually leading to his firing.
Howson’s in a difficult spot: trade Nash now and risk sending him to a rival or receiving less than his perceived market value, or wait it out in hopes of receiving his asking price.
Either way, I have a feeling Howson is going to be disappointed with his return and consequently will be disappointed with his lack of employment.