The Rangers have been seen as one of the heavy favorites in the Rick Nash sweepstakes since Nash became available. One of the most significant obstacles for the Rangers to acquire Nash has been the salary cap, the Rangers are right up on the cap ceiling and can not afford to fir Nash in without some maneuvering. With two days to the deadline the Rangers did some maneuvering sending Wojtek Wolski and his $3.8 million cap hit to the Florida Panthers. Is this a precursor for a Rick Nash blockbuster?
As I mentioned in previous columns, Columbus GM Scott Howson has identified his blueprint for a Nash trade to be a significant roster player, a top prospect or two and a first round pick. There is some flexibility of course, but lets work with what we know.
With the trade of Wolski the Rangers are now at $61.466, 709 in payroll and with approximately $10.518 in deadline cap space according to Cap Geek. Plenty to fit Nash in for this season, but what about beyond this year as Nash's deal runs through 2018? For the 20132-2013 season the Rangers currently have 15 players under contract and the cap hit is $48.383. To add Nash and his $7.8 million cap hit starts to get pretty close. However, the core of the team is locked up beyond next season with Ruslan Fedotenko and Martin Biron being the most prominent unrestricted free agents and Michael Del Zotto the only significant restricted free agent due. Del Zotto will need to be resigned and will see a significant raise over his current entry level contract given his performance this season. Understanding that Howson is seeking a valuable roster player in return will clear some cap room for next season depending on which player is going to Columbus. So now we see how the deal can work with the cap, what players could be involved?
There are plenty of options in New York from roster players to prospects. Brandon Dubinsky stands out as he has failed to take his game to the next level and is earning $4.2 million for the next three years. The Rangers boast quality prospects Tim Erixon who is ranked 15th overall in the Hockey News Future Watch, Chris Kreider who is ranked 18th, and big 6’5” 214 Lbs Dylan McIlrath who is ranked 50th. Mark Spector of SportsNet reported via twitter the rangers offer consisted of both defensemen Del Zotto, Ryan McDonagh and prospect Tim Erixon. That is a deal that would decimate the Rangers defense! Considering Columbus just added Jack Johnson in the Jeff Carter deal they may be more interested in Dubinsky, which would suit the Rangers since they will need Del Zotto and McDonagh for the playoffs.
What does this all mean in terms of the Rangers offer for Nash? Taking into consideration all the many factors perhaps Dubinsky, Erixon, Kreider, and a first round draft choice. That is a top six forward, two top 20 prospects and a first, a significant offer indeed! Would Glen Sather seriously consider mortgaging such a significant piece of the future?
Considering the Rangers are currently first in the Eastern Conference with a significant seven point lead over defending Cup Champions Boston Bruins you have to think they see themselves as a serious contender to win it all. By offering only Dubinsky off the current roster and getting Nash back would move them from contender, to favorite! The sting of having given up such promising youth is quickly soothed by a Championship banner hanging in the rafters of Madison Square Gardens.
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