As this miserable season winds down for the hapless Columbus Blue Jackets, their fans face the upcoming off-season pondering the fate of right winger Rick Nash.
Following a trade request by Nash in January, the Blue Jackets attempted to move him by the trade deadline, but didn’t find any offers to their liking.
It’s widely anticipated they’ll try to move him again this summer.
When asked if there was any chance he would remain with the Blue Jackets, Nash said he didn’t know what would happen in the off-season, an opinion also shared by GM Scott Howson.
Michael Arace of The Columbus Dispatch, however, believes the pair can’t state the “obvious truth” that Nash “is virtually assured of being traded before the June draft,” pointing out the market for the Blue Jackets captain will expand as rival teams that fall short of playoff expectations look to the winger as a potential solution.
Though the New York Rangers exceeded expectations, many expect them to target Nash, since they already aggressively pursued a deal leading up to the trade deadline. Depending on their upcoming playoff performance, they might revisit their interest in Nash.
Another reason there will be more suitors for Nash in the off-season is teams have more available cap space and a willingness to invest during that period.
While the expectation is Nash will be dealt during the June draft weekend, Arace has a point when he says it could happen sooner. The day prior to last year’s draft, the Blue Jackets stunned the hockey world by acquiring Jeff Carter from the Philadelphia Flyers.
Nash might not be the only Blue Jackets commodity up for bids by the draft.
Arace’s colleague, Shawn Mitchell, recently suggested the Blue Jackets could use their top pick – potentially the first overall pick if the draft lottery goes their way – as trade bait to land the No. 1 goaltender they’ve lacked for most of their history.
It’s been rumored the Blue Jackets could shop that pick because the top-rated prospects in this year’s draft are Russians (Nail Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko) and the Blue Jackets have a poor record selecting Russian prospects, most notably Nikolay Zherdev and Nikita Filatov.
Howson, however, denied this, telling ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun such talk was “hogwash,” going on to say it would “border on stupidity” not to consider drafting a player just because he’s from Russia.
BAILING ON THE MONSTER?
Gustavsson subsequently started on Tuesday against the Carolina Hurricanes, but was given the hook early in the second period after giving up three goals on 12 shots in favor of call-up Jussi Rynnas.
Gustavsson was to start Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers, but suffered a knee injury in warmup.
An unrestricted free agent this summer, Gustavsson said he wasn’t thinking about what the future holds, but said he enjoyed living and playing in Toronto.
Signed out of the Swedish League in July 2009 by the Maple Leafs following a bidding war with several clubs, Gustavsson was considered at the time “the best goalie not in the NHL,” but subsequently failed to live up to expectations.
Given his struggles this season, he faces the possibility of going unsigned by another NHL team this summer, which could lead to his return to Sweden.
LA Kings GM Dean Lombardi recently said he doubted left winger Simon Gagne would play again this season.
Gagne, 31, has been sidelined by a concussion since Dec. 28. Lombardi’s comments gave rise to Internet speculation the veteran winger’s history of head injuries would force him into retirement.
Gagne currently has one season remaining on his contract (average cap hit of $3.5 million) and if he were to retire, it wouldn’t count against the Kings cap for next season.
According to RDS.ca’s Renaud Lavoie, however, Gagne is working hard on returning before the end of the regular season or the playoffs.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla’s Korner.