Rangers can still go for Nash if Parise goes elsewhere

New York Rangers left wing Brandon Dubinsky and

New York Rangers left wing Brandon Dubinsky and Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Rick Nash vie for a loose puck in the second period. (Feb. 19, 2012) (Credit: AP )

Last July 1, free agent center Brad Richards and his representatives huddled in Toronto to sift through multiyear offers before formally accepting a nine-year, $60-million contract from the Rangers.

A similar scenario is expected to unfold Sunday in the same offices of Newport Sports Management, where the most coveted forward in the market, the Devils' Zach Parise, will be wooed with long-term offers expected to surpass $8 million per season.

But will the Rangers emerge as winners in this courtship?

At the NHL draft in Pittsburgh, general manager Glen Sather declared that the Rangers would be as "aggressive as possible" in the free agent market, but Parise, 27, the son of former Islander J.P. Parise, said after the Devils were eliminated in the Stanley Cup Final that he wasn't considering the Rangers as a destination if he decided to leave New Jersey.

The Penguins, Wild and Red Wings are serious suitors for Parise, which means that the Rangers, with the need for more offensive punch, a flaw that surfaced during the season and especially in the playoffs, remain in contention for Columbus power forward Rick Nash, their main target on trade deadline day in late February.

Sather went hard after Nash, 28, who has a $7.8-million cap hit through 2018, but refused to include youngsters Chris Kreider or Ryan McDonagh in any package.

Nash, who has scored 40 goals or more twice and 30 or more five times, submitted a list of teams to which he would accept a trade, yet Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson rebuffed an offer that reportedly included Brandon Dubinsky, several Rangers prospects and draft picks.

Howson, who reportedly wants at least two roster players, a top prospect and a first-round pick, could wait until Parise decides, in hopes that teams sweeten the pot. Another trade possibility is Anaheim Ducks forward Bobby Ryan, a south Jersey native, with a lower cap hit and a desire for a change of scenery.

The money is available: After re-signing unrestricted free agent goaltender Martin Biron on Friday, the Blueshirts appear to have about $19.7 million available under the tentative 2012-13 salary cap of $70.2 million, which could change when a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.

Parise does not have to make a decision Sunday. Neither does Shane Doan, Phoenix Coyotes captain, a quality forward who has never totaled less than 50 points a season and could be a short-term fit on Broadway. Washington's mercurial Alexander Semin, who was paid $6.7 million last season is on the market but also considering Russia's KHL.

Saturday, the Rangers fell short in their first dip into the free agent waters when they were bypassed by Justin Schultz, 21, a defenseman from the University of Wisconsin who was born in Western Canada. He chose from six teams before selecting the rebuilding Edmonton Oilers.

The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Rangers, Madison Square Garden and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.

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