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Numbers Game: Rangers get deal done for Nash

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Scott Cullen
7/23/2012 4:18:15 PM
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The New York Rangers completed a long-awaited deal for a proven scoring winger, sending four assets to Columbus.

Numbers Game breaks down the Rick Nash trade.

The Rangers Get: LW Rick Nash, D Steven Delisle and a conditional third-round pick.

Nash, 28, is a seven-time 30-goal scorer, but Nash's 59 points in 2011-2012 represented his lowest total since 2006-2007 and his minus-19 rating was his worst since 2003-2004.

Since 2003-2004, Nash has scored 272 goals, which ranks fifth in the league over that time (behind Ilya Kovalchuk, Alex Ovechkin, Jarome Iginla and Dany Heatley), so he's going to arrive in New York with high expectations, but Nash will also have a better opportunity in New York, where he could play with a proven playmaking centre like Brad Richards, who is a substantial upgrade over any of the pivots that Nash lined up with in Columbus.

Nash has six years remaining on his contract, which comes with an annual cap hit of $7.8-million (per www.capgeek.com) and while that is a significant financial commitment, the Rangers are getting Nash for what should be productive years, from age 28 through 33.

The likelihood of playing with better players should keep Nash scoring at a high level. There may be some drop-off in the last few years of the deal, but as long as he's surrounded by a strong supporting cast, a power forward with Nash's size and skill should remain effective throughout.

Despite making the Eastern Conference Final last season, the Rangers had trouble generating offence at times, ranking 11th in the league with 2.71 goals per game, but then managing 2.15 per game in the postseason.

With last season's leading goal-scorer, Marian Gaborik, due to miss the first couple months of the 2012-2013 season as he recovers from shoulder surgery, the Rangers had an obvious need for a scoring winger.

Delisle is a 6-foot-6 defenceman who turns 22 next week. He spent most of his first pro season in the ECHL, so his inclusion is more about moving a contract than any kind of on-ice value that he might provide for the Rangers.

It seemed, pretty much all along, that the Rangers were best-equipped of the teams on Nash's approved trade list to put together a viable offer with at least four assets going the other way.

After moving out a couple of NHL regulars, the Blueshirts will have opportunities open to earn regular roles. Certainly one spot will be ear-marked for Chris Kreider, the top prospect who joined the team in the playoffs, but there appears to be room for another prospect or late-summer acquisition to earn a regular place among Rangers forwards at least early on, while Gaborik is sidelined.

The Blue Jackets Get: C/LW Brandon Dubinsky, C/LW Artem Anisimov, D Tim Erixon and a first-round pick.

Dubinsky is a 26-year-old forward who finished with a career-low 10 goals and 34 points in 2011-2012, yet was a career-best plus-16 while facing tough checking assignments (per www.behindthenet.ca).

A two-time 20-goal scorer who played more than 20 minutes per game in 2010-2011, Dubinsky plays a solid two-way game with an edge and is one of nine players to have at least 50 goals and 250 penalty minutes over the past three seasons. He's also won 52.2% of his faceoffs over the last five seasons, which would be an improvement on a scoring line for Columbus.

Dubinsky does figure to get an opportunity in a scoring role for Columbus, as the Blue Jackets only have one 20-goal-scorer (LW R.J. Umberger) returning from last season.

Dubinsky has three years, with a cap hit of $4.2-million, remaining on his contract; reasonable value if he can recapture his offensive form.

24-year-old Artem Anisimov has 34 goals, 80 points and a plus-15 rating over the last two seasons, nice enough complementary offence, but he could have a more significant opportunity awaiting him in Columbus.

No one's going to suggest that Anisimov is a player at Nash's level, but their even-strength scoring wasn't dramatically different last season, with Nash putting up 38 points at even strength and Anisimov finishing with 32. When you factor in that Nash played a couple minutes more per game at even strength (14:58 to 12:44) there isn't such a massive difference. In fact, Anisimov had more points per 60 minutes of even-strength play last season (1.91 to 1.86).

There are quality of competition (and teammates) issues to consider and, again, Nash is easily the superior player, but if Dubinsky and Anisimov can produce with increased offensive roles in Columbus, they could offset a decent portion of the lost offence and Dubinsky should offer defensive value as well.

Anisimov comes with a cap hit of $1.875-million for the 2012-2013 season, after which he will be a restricted free agent.

The best long-term value of the deal, from Columbus' perspective, may be 21-year-old blueliner Tim Erixon. He played a limited role in 18 games with the Rangers last season, but was impressive in the American Hockey League, scoring 33 points with a plus-5 rating in 52 games for the Connecticut Whale.

Erixon is ready for an NHL role, but joins a crowded Columbus blueline. He could move ahead of young defencemen like John Moore and David Savard on the depth chart, which also might give the Blue Jackets some ammunition to use in future deals.

With first-round pick Ryan Murray and veteran free agent Adrian Aucoin joining a defence corps that already included Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski, Fedor Tyutin and Nikita Nikitin, Columbus has a lot of NHL-calibre defencemen in the organization.

The first-round pick is okay value, but not likely a huge difference-maker, particularly if it falls in the bottom third (which seems like a reasonable expectation). For more, check out the updated first-round pick value column I wrote here.

After months of waiting, the Blue Jackets ended up with a deal that seemed like it could have been achieved right from the start, but their hands were tied by Nash's no-movement clause, which limited the market to a select pool of teams which Nash approved. Given a limited market, and dealing with general managers that recognized that limited market, Columbus eventually made a reasonable move.

The names coming back aren't headliners, but the Blue Jackets had the worst record in hockey with Nash last season, so it's not like they are going to fare dramatically worse.

It's easy enough from the outside to suggest that Columbus should have been able to hold out in order to get elite prospects or young players (like Kreider, or Derek Stepan), but with an established objective of acquiring at least four assets in the trade, and Nash having final say on the destination, the Blue Jackets took a deal that they likely could have accepted at any time since they decided to trade Nash.

In that respect, it feels like Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson relented in his demands, but if none of the teams in trade discussion were going to offer a first-line talent (say Logan Couture or Joe Pavelski from San Jose, or David Krejci from Boston) in return, then there comes a point at which the Blue Jackets had to move on and accumulate assets that will help them build in the post-Nash era.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Rick Nash (Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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