It was a drawn-out hunt, beginning in earnest five months ago as the NHL trade deadline approached, and ended suddenly Monday. Rangers president and general manager Glen Sather acquired his target, elite power forward Rick Nash, who averaged 33 goals in the past seven seasons with Columbus.
Nash, 28, a five-time All-Star who will bolster an offense that ranked 23rd on the power play and managed just 2.15 goals per game in their playoff run, should flourish with center Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik when the latter returns in November from shoulder surgery and keep the Blueshirts in Stanley Cup contention.
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The price was substantial, but far less than what Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson sought initially for the rebuilding team's captain and franchise player. The Rangers gave up forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, defense prospect Tim Erixon and a first-round draft pick next June.
Sather refused Howson's demands to include rookie winger Chris Kreider, center Derek Stepan or defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Michael Del Zotto in the package for Nash, who had asked to be moved and provided a short list of teams for which he would waive his no-trade clause. "He's a terrific player," Sather said. "He wanted to come to New York, he has the right attitude. It's a deal we couldn't turn down."
Howson, who agreed on the framework of the deal Friday and signed off on it Monday, said the Rangers were the team most persistent in the pursuit of Nash, who carries an annual salary-cap hit of $7.8 million, now the highest on the Rangers, through the 2017-18 season. The Rangers also received a conditional third-round draft choice and minor-league defenseman Steven Delisle.
But Sather said the cap was not an issue, and that the front office was talking to other players to round out the roster.
"If you look at the total amount of money traded, we come out on the upside of it," he said. "Artie has one year left on his contract [$1.8 million] and going to be looking for a big raise, Brandon has three years left [at $4.2 million per year] and Erixon is at $1.75 million. The money is a wash . . . this changes the complexion of our team, not the way we play." Nash said the last six months were "a lot of limbo, for sure, it was a tough time, good thing now is that it's over . . . one of the top teams in league, pretty impressive from goaltending to the defense right on out. I just thought the Rangers were perfect, an amazing team. Just a great fit for my style."
Dubinsky, 26, who had been in the organization eight years, and Anisimov, 24, who played the last three years in New York, "were pieces of the core, but we think with Kreider coming along . . . and we have more young kids going to come in sooner or later," Sather said. "This kind of quality hockey player doesn't come along very often."
Columbus is getting two forwards with upside: Dubinsky had an off year, with just 10 goals and Anisimov produced 10 points in 20 playoff games. Erixon, 21, a former No. 1 pick acquired from Calgary last June, played only 18 games last season and was 3-30-33 in Hartford.
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