NHL trade talk heated up Tuesday with reports that Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash could be available before the Feb. 27 deadline.
A source close to the situation confirmed that he is potentially in play.
Nash holds a no-movement clause and didn’t exactly shoot down the possibility of a trade while speaking to reporters before Tuesday’s game against St. Louis.
“The last couple of weeks there have been so many rumours,” said Nash, according to the Columbus Post-Dispatch. “And when a team loses, more rumours keep on surfacing. That’s what it seems to be right now, is just rumours.
“I’m a Blue Jacket right now. I’ve played my whole career here and it’s a special place to me. So as of right now I’m a Blue Jacket.”
Nash was drafted first overall by Columbus in 2002 and quickly became the face of the organization. He is in the first year of a seven-year contract that pays him US$7.8 million annually.
A season that started with optimism in Columbus has been nothing short of a disaster and the franchise appears to be headed for a major rebuild. Entering play Tuesday, the Blue Jackets were on pace for 56 points—a total that would match the 2006-07 Philadelphia Flyers for the lowest since the NHL lockout.
The 27-year-old Nash has only made one playoff appearance in nine NHL seasons and might be inclined to move to a contender.
The two-time Canadian Olympian and former Rocket Richard Trophy winner wouldn’t come cheap. The six-foot-four Nash is a prototypical power forward who has two 40-goal seasons and four others with more than 30—making him a franchise player in the eyes of many.
Nash has also shown he can handle the pressure of the big stage, having been a key contributor to Canada’s gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics as well as the 2007 IIHF World Championship in Moscow.
News of Nash’s potential availability brought some life to what had been a surprisingly dormant period of inactivity around the NHL. Even with the Feb. 27 trade deadline fast approaching, there have been no significant moves since Calgary and Montreal swapped Rene Bourque and Mike Cammalleri more than a month ago.
“It’s been so quiet,” one NHL general manager told The Canadian Press. “Everyone would like to do something, but there’s so few people that really believe that they’re out of it. It’s an interesting time.”
In fact, the most notable moves so far have involved teams re-signing players that might otherwise have been traded. Blue Jackets forward Vinny Prospal, Hurricanes defenceman Tim Gleason and Oilers defenceman Andy Sutton have all signed recent extensions.
It is still far from certain Nash will be dealt.
Players of his calibre have rarely moved during the season since the salary cap was created and Nash controls his own destiny. But as long as there is trade talk it remains a possibility—something that would have been hard to imagine at the start of the season.