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Frank Seravalli

TSN Senior Hockey Reporter

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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

 
Player Pos Age Cap Hit GP G PTS Years Clause
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  
 

 

 
 
Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli