GREENBURGH, N.Y. - The latest New York Ranger was engulfed by two semicircles of reporters and television cameras on Wednesday.
And it's only July.
Welcome to New York, Rick Nash.
Nash, acquired from Columbus Monday in the off-season's most important trade, met with reporters at the Rangers training facility two days after the deal, as he tried to get acclimated to his new surroundings.
It won't be easy. Nash, the Blue Jackets' all-time leader in 16 categories, has been to the post-season only once in his career, and now joins a team with aspirations of the Stanley Cup.
"I don't think it's all digested just yet," Nash said. "It's been a bit crazy. I'm excited. I'm excited to meet all the staff here, all the people and some of the players. Just kind of look forward to training camp."
The Rangers were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season, and advanced to the third round before falling to New Jersey in six games. They hope to get over the top next season, and with Nash, they have a much better chance.
Nash is a five-time All-Star and won the Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL's leading goal scorer after the 2003-04 season, in which he scored 41 times. He is the Blue Jackets' leader in games played (674), goals (289), assists (258), points (574), power-play goals (83), short-handed goals (14) and game-winning goals (44).
Those numbers, though, came with a team that swam through mediocrity—at best—in the Western Conference. Now, he's on a club loaded with stars and expectations. And oh yeah, he's going to play for one of the league's more fiery coaches, John Tortorella, who is famous for rigorous off-season training.
"I've heard that a couple times now, so I'll definitely be practicing. I think it's important. Each coach and each team has their own little thing for training camp. I think it's great," Nash said. "Guys have to be in top shape to play at the top level."
Nash even spoke with Columbus centre Vinny Prospal about playing for Tortorella. Prospal played for the coach in both Tampa Bay and New York.
"Vinny just texted me an hour ago and I talked to him before that when we were in Columbus, training together. He loved it here. He said it was one of the best parts of his career playing here and he loves (Tortorella)," Nash said. "My understanding is that he is very demanding and a tough guy to play for. He preaches hard work and that's what you expect from a coach. That's what you want."
Nash spoke with Tortorella after the deal, along with some of his new teammates: goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, defenceman Marc Staal, and forwards Ryan Callahan and Brad Richards.
"He called me right after the deal went down," Nash said of Tortorella. "I thought it was great. He's really intense but he seemed really helpful. He told me that if I need anything or if I had any questions to make sure to call him."
To acquire Nash, New York packaged forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, defenceman Tim Erixon and their 2013 first-round pick. Along with Nash, the Rangers received minor league defenceman Steven Delisle and a conditional third round pick in next June's draft. New York and Columbus had been talking about a proposed Nash trade since the trade deadline last February, and finally came to a midsummer solution.
"You look at huge deals and sometimes they get done in a day and sometimes it takes months .I think it was a pretty big trade for both organizations and it had to get done right," Nash said. "I respect that."
Joe Resnick, Nash's agent, said that his discussions with Columbus general manager Scott Howson intensified after former New Jersey forward Zach Parise signed a 13-year, $98 million contract with the Minnesota Wild.
As part of his talks with Howson—Resnick estimated that the two spoke once or twice a week since the season ended—the agent pointed out that Columbus' training camp would have been a circus had Nash still been with the team.
"That was something we tried to stress," Resnick said. "We've been professional but we don't want to be a distraction. All training camp would have been 'what happened,' and 'what would have happened?'"
Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and San Jose joined the Rangers on Nash's list of preferred destinations. Howson had discussions with Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray and Carolina's Jim Rutherford regarding a trade for Nash, as well. But neither Nash nor Resnick would go into detail about the other teams.
"We're happy that it was a team on the list," Resnick said. "Our list was our list."
And to be fair, it doesn't much matter anymore. From here on in, he's Ranger Rick, and that's it.
"The main thing was looking at the (Rangers), looking at what they did over the last couple of years, something that I loved to be a part of and to help them out," Nash said. "Hockey is truly a passion here, where they expect a championship-calibre team.
"They've done everything they can as an organization to put that together."