NEW YORK — The months-long quest is finally over. Rick Nash is a New York Ranger.
After haggling with Columbus GM Scott Howson since before February’s in-season trade deadline, Rangers President/GM Glen Sather finally pulled off the deal on Monday afternoon, sending F Brandon Dubinsky, F Artem Anisimov, D Tim Erixon, and a first-round draft pick to Columbus for Nash, a conditional third-round draft pick, and minor-league D Steve Delisle. The draft pick going to the Rangers will be returned to Columbus if the Rangers make the Stanley Cup Final this upcoming season.
“We’re happy to have a five-time All-Star and a 40-goal scorer,” said Rangers President/GM Glen Sather during an early-evening conference call. “A guy who’s only 28 years old, he’s one of the better goal-scorers in the National Hockey League, he’ll help us immensely.”
“I was very excited,” Nash said of his emotions when told of the pact. “Looking forward to this opportunity and being a part of something that, I think, is pretty special what they have going on here with the Rangers.”
Sather was steadfast in his demand to retain his best assets – and was able to keep all of them. Instead, he sent two NHL-ready forwards that were disappointments on Broadway last season: Dubinsky, who scored only ten goals and added 24 assists, and Anisimov, who scored 16 and 20 in the regular campaign, but was a major disappointment in the postseason.
“We still have a very young hockey club,” Sather said. “Brandon and Artie were pieces of that core, but I think we’ve strengthened our hockey club. We think with [Chris] Kreider coming along the way he came along, we’re going to be fine. And there’s still some people available that we’re going to be talking to.”
“They’re one of the top teams in the league,” Nash said of the Rangers, still speaking of his new team in the third person only two hours after the trade was made official. “The players they have, [it’s] pretty impressive, from the goaltender, to the defense, right up. I’m happy to be part of the organization, and part of the whole city.”
The Rangers, with this deal, become one of the favorites to reach the Stanley Cup Final in the 2012-2013 season. Nash, one of the preeminent wingers in the NHL, has scored at least 30 goals in each of his last five seasons playing for the middling Blue Jackets. He instantly becomes one of the Rangers’ top offensive stars. With Marian Gaborik (shoulder) out of the fold until at least November, Nash will be counted on immediately to provide instant scoring.
Meanwhile, the deal can only be considered a success for Sather. According to many published reports, Howson desired – among others — forwards Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider, and defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Michael Del Zotto; four of the Rangers core players. A deal was never going to happen under those conditions. Howson’s requests for many of the Rangers top forward prospects, including J.T. Miller and Christian Thomas, were also rebuffed.
“Before the trade deadline, we were pretty active in trying to get a hold of [Howson],” Sather said. “I didn’t want to make a deal that he wanted, and then I would give him some names back, and he didn’t accept what I was trying to trade to him. It’s been a continual process since before the trade deadline.”
Instead, Sather sent Tim Erixon — a Port Chester, N.Y. native and son of former Rangers D Jan Erixon. The younger Erixon, originally drafted by Calgary in 2009, was deemed expendable due to the number of defensemen currently in the Rangers’ organization.
“We’re always trying to improve the team,” Sather said. “The opportunity this year, before the trade deadline, we couldn’t make it go. We felt we’d like to have more offense – especially with Gaborik out until sometime in November. Once Gaborik gets together, and Nash gets together, we’ve got some pretty good offensive players right now.”
McDonagh, Dan Girardi, and Marc Staal are currently on the active roster, the rehabilitating Michael Sauer (post-concussion syndrome) could return, and the team’s first-round draft pick in 2010, Dylan McIlrath may play in Hartford this season. All of that allowed Sather to deal from a position of depth.
The Rangers have also been linked to UFA forward Shane Doan, who has spent his entire 17-year NHL career with the Phoenix Coyotes/former Winnipeg Jets. Doan, whose preference is to stay with the only franchise he’s ever known, may decide to leave Phoenix if their uncertain ownership situation doesn’t get figured out. Despite Nash’s $7.8 million cap hit, the team still has over $13 million left under the cap as currently constructed, according to Capgeek.com.
“That’s purely speculation at this stage,” Sather said of the Doan rumors. “[Nash’s trade] doesn’t eliminate the opportunity to pursue someone else at this stage.
Whether or not Sather adds the Coyotes’ captain, Sather has already done his job. He has acquired one of the top wingers in the league, and done so without mortgaging the future. He has instantly made the Rangers a dangerous offensive team, which will take pressure off their Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
“This changes the complexion of our team,” Sather said. “It’s not going to change the way we play. [Nash is] a world-class player. He was very excited to be coming to New York.”
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