Rick Nash is precisely the type of player Boston needs, but the price was exorbitant considering he’s past his prime and a UFA rental.
Theoretically, the Boston Bruins just made the perfect upgrade for the stretch run. But did they pay too much to get it? And are they getting what think they’re getting?
As reported by TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger on Sunday, the Bruins have acquired left winger Rick Nash from the New York Rangers in exchange for a 2018 first-round pick, center Ryan Spooner, defense prospect Ryan Lindgren, left winger Matt Beleskey and a 2019 seventh-round pick. The Rangers will also retain 50 percent of Rick Nash’s remaining pro-rated cap hit of $7.8 million.
There’s no question Nash is an outstanding fit for the Bruins’ team needs from a pure hockey standpoint as they prepare for a legitimate Stanley Cup push. Their all-world top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak have 24, 27 and 22 goals, respectively, while no other forward on the team has more than 12. Offensively, the Bruins have functioned like a team with one first line and multiple third lines, albeit good ones. No other contending team needed secondary scoring as much as the Bruins did. So Nash, who is past his prime but remains a big, powerful, effective two-way forward, makes them better.
But how much better? After notching a career-best 42 goals in 2014-15 across 79 games, Nash has 56 goals in 187 games since. Injuries have worn down his 6-foot-4, 211-pound frame. His days of sniping 30 goals are over. That said, his possession numbers are good relative to his Rangers teammates, and he actually ranks second on the team in 5-on-5 goals per 60 behind the also-traded Michael Grabner. So Nash obviously still has some talent left in his stick, and he won’t be asked to dominate in a first-line assignment – though Boston could experiment with him on the right side if it wants to balance out its scoring and play Pastrnak with David Krejci.
Still, he’s a pending UFA. The Bruins are renting Nash, and while the 50 percent salary relief and the Rangers taking Beleskey’s (buried) $3.8-million cap hit off the books are nice, the price was pretty steep for Nash. On top of the 2018 first-rounder, the Rangers get pending RFA Spooner, who is still just 26, can play center or the wing and has chipped in respectable offense for several seasons despite never getting enough ice time to really blossom. Spooner averages a measly 14:21 of TOI for his career. Lindgren doesn’t qualify as an elite prospect, but he has plenty of upside. He was good enough to represent Team USA at the last two world junior championships, winning gold and bronze. He doesn’t have top-end size, but that doesn’t matter a ton in today’s speed-based game. He profiles as a well-rounded D-man who isn’t an offensive dynamo but can do everything reasonably well as a two-way guy. Scouts like his toughness and character. He’s a team-first type who could wear a letter someday if he makes it in the NHL.
A first-rounder, Spooner and Lindgren, not to mention the 2019 end-game pick? That’s a fair amount of upside to surrender for a past-his-prime second-liner. There’s no denying the Bruins made their team better right now, and they need the help if Bergeron’s foot injury proves serious, but every other “buyer” GM in the league should be nervous about this return. If Nash costs this much, what’s it going to take to land Mike Green? Or what about the non-rental options such as Erik Karlsson, Ryan McDonagh and Max Pacioretty? The return prices are getting exorbitant. The Matt Duchene trade appears to have set a towering bar.
Meanwhile, GM Jeff Gorton and the Rangers should be quite happy. They’ve hauled in some significant assets for Grabner and Nash, with McDonagh still in play.