The Boston Bruins have reeled in the NHL’s biggest rental in Rick Nash.
They paid a significant price to do it, sending a 2018 first-round pick, forward Ryan Spooner, defensive prospect Ryan Lindgren and the contract of forward Matt Beleskey to the New York Rangers in exchange for the 33-year-old left winger and a 2019 seventh-round pick.
Nash ranked No. 2 on TSN’s Trade Bait board, behind only two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, who has one more year remaining on his contract.
The Rangers retained half of Nash’s $7.8 million salary and Boston retained half of Beleskey’s remaining contract to make a very limited impact on the Bruins’ salary cap situation.
For New York, the Nash trade will go a long way in jump-starting the rebuild. By trading Nash, Michael Grabner and Nick Holden this week, the Rangers now have six picks in the first three rounds of June’s NHL Draft.
Plus, the Rangers can now add Spooner to their potential trade chips to move before Monday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.
For Boston, Nash provides a complete three-zone game and brings scoring punch to the second line on a team many see as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. They are 31-7-4 over their last 42 games - an incredible .786 points percentage - including Saturday night’s loss to the Leafs. The Bruins weren’t forced to dive deep in their prospect cupboard to make it happen.
For the rest of the NHL, the Nash deal helps set the market - not just for a top flight rental like Evander Kane, but also for other wingers potentially on the move such as Mike Hoffman, Max Pacioretty or even Alex Galchenyuk.
The biggest question, though, is: how will the Toronto Maple Leafs respond?
The Maple Leafs are now 3-1 against the Bruins this season - with all three of those wins coming without Auston Matthews in the lineup - but the acquisition of Nash could make the path to a Stanley Cup a bit more daunting now.
Short of catching the Tampa Bay Lightning for top spot in the Atlantic Division, the Bruins are very likely to be Toronto’s first round opponent. Seemingly the only question is which team will have home ice. Get by the Bruins and, well, the Lightning may be waiting.
One would think watching a surefire playoff opponent in Boston load up with Nash gives the Maple Leafs a moment of pause.
Do they now double back to the Rangers on defenceman Ryan McDonagh? McDonagh has now risen to No. 2 on the Trade Bait board. The Maple Leafs are one of many teams to express interest in McDonagh; the Florida Panthers have made a recent push.
The Leafs are 12-3-0 in their last 15 games and certainly trending in the right direction. The Bruins also have a grueling 24 games in 44 days stretch to close the season.
“It’s not like Christmas where someone drops off gifts,” coach Mike Babcock said Friday. “You got to give something to get something … We’re not going to do anything foolish, I know that for sure.”
Or, does the Nash deal - coupled with Matthews’ shoulder injury - actually make the Maple Leafs consider going the other direction? It’s been a long-held belief that the Leafs will hang onto their “own rentals” in James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Leo Komarov for the playoff run.
The answer, of course, could be that the Maple Leafs do little before the deadline and let the chips fall where they may in the playoffs. Perhaps they add a fourth-line centre to the mix. Not making any significant change would not be a surprise, since team brass has seen this group as one that could do damage.
We just won’t know for sure what that group will look like until Monday at 3:01 p.m.
Here is TSN Hockey’s latest Top 45 Trade Bait, whose ranking always seeks to balance likelihood of a trade with prominence of the player:
The Top 45
|1. Erik Karlsson, OTT||RD||27||$6.5M||56||5||42||1||M-NTC|
|2. Ryan McDonagh, NYR||LD||28||$4.7M||49||2||26||1||M-NTC|
|3. Mike Green, DET||RD||32||$6M||56||6||29||UFA||NTC|
|4. Evander Kane, BUF||LW||26||$5.25M||61||20||40||UFA|
|5. Patrick Maroon, EDM||LW||29||$1.5M||57||14||30||UFA|
|6. Zack Smith, OTT||C/LW||29||$3.25M||47||5||18||3||M-NTC|
|7. Mats Zuccarello, NYR||RW||30||$4.5M||61||10||43||1|
|8. Mike Hoffman, OTT||LW||28||$5.19M||61||17||41||2||M-NTC|
|9. Jack Johnson, CBJ||LD||31||$4.35M||62||3||8||UFA|
|10. Thomas Vanek, VAN||LW||33||$2M||61||17||41||UFA|
|11. Ian Cole, OTT||LD||29||$2.1M||47||3||13||UFA|
|12. Max Domi, ARI||C/LW||22||$1.36M||61||5||27||RFA|
|13. Derek Ryan, CAR||C||31||$1.45M||60||11||26||UFA|
|14. Max Pacioretty, MTL||LW||29||$4.5M||61||17||37||1|
|15. Jeff Skinner, CAR||LW||25||$5.73M||62||20||37||1||NMC|
|16. Alex Galchenyuk, MTL||LW||23||$4.9M||61||12||34||2|
|17. J-G Pageau, OTT||C||25||$3.1M||57||8||20||4|
|18. Ryan Spooner, NYR||LW/C||26||$2.83M||39||9||25||RFA|
|19. Luke Glendening, DET||C||28||$1.8M||49||8||14||3|
|20. Ryan Hartman, CHI||RW||23||$863K||57||8||25||RFA|
|21. Boone Jenner, CBJ||C||24||$2.9M||55||6||19||RFA|
|22. Andrew Shaw, MTL||C/RW||26||$3.9M||43||10||19||4|
|23. Jordan Kyrou, STL||C/RW||19||$894K||0||0||0||3||Slide|
|24. Robby Fabbri, STL||LW||22||$1.1M||0||0||0||RFA|
|25. Joel Ward, SJS||RW||37||$3.28M||46||5||11||UFA||M-NTC|
|26. Johnny Oduya, OTT||LD||36||$2M||51||4||8||UFA||M-NTC|
|27. Gustav Nyquist, DET||RW||28||$4.75M||60||16||29||1||NTC|
|28. Aaron Dell, SJS||G||28||$625K||25||2.71||0.912||UFA|
|29. Jon Gillies, CGY||G||24||$725K||4||2.54||0.914||RFA|
|30. Bobby Ryan, OTT||LW||30||$7.25M||41||7||22||4||M-NTC|
|31. Matt Hunwick, PIT||LD||32||$2.25M||37||3||8||2|
|32. Benoit Pouliot, BUF||LW||31||$1.15M||58||12||16||UFA|
|33. Josh Leivo, TOR||LW||24||$613K||13||1||3||1|
|34. Tommy Wingels, CHI||RW||29||$750K||57||7||12||UFA|
|35. Tomas Tatar, DET||LW||27||$5.3M||61||16||27||3|
|36. Blake Comeau, COL||RW||31||$2.4M||58||10||22||UFA|
|37. Ben Hutton, VAN||LD||24||$2.8M||50||0||6||1|
|38. Matt Cullen, MIN||C||41||$1.7M||59||6||15||UFA|
|39. Nic Petan, WPG||C||22||$863K||15||2||1||RFA|
|40. Robin Lehner, BUF||G||26||$4M||46||2.95||0.910||RFA|
|41. Mike Cammalleri, EDM||RW||35||$1M||53||5||25||UFA|
|42. Xavier Ouellet, DET||LD||24||$1.25M||38||0||5||1|
|43. Danny DeKeyser, DET||LD||27||$5M||44||5||8||4||NTC|
|44. Paul Martin, SJS||LD||36||$4.85M||3||0||0||1||M-NTC|
|45. Tyson Barrie, COL||RD||26||$5.5M||47||6||37||2|