Veteran forward Rick Nash admitted Friday that the 2017-18 NHL season — his sixth and possibly final one with the Blueshirts — “is an important year for me personally and for the Rangers, too.”
For the first time since he broke in with the Columbus Blue Jackets at age 18 in 2002-03, Nash is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in July.
“Every year, I want to have the best year possible,” said Nash, 33, but conceded that during the summer he had thought about entering the last season of his eight-year contract that averaged $7.8 million per season. “That’s sports, that’s what happens,” he said. “You play for another contract, that’s what I’m facing this year.”
With that statement, Nash made it clear that he has no intention of retiring. He netted 42 goals in 2014-15, but in the prior season and in the last two, he played only 65, 60 and 67 games due to injuries.
If he stays healthy and produces, Nash certainly will receive offers next July, presumably for a shorter term and fewer dollars.
Nash, who looks noticeably slimmer, spoke after an NHL presentation at CitiField promoting the upcoming Winter Classic between the Rangers and Buffalo Sabres, to be staged on Jan. 1.
It’ll be a first for Nash, who was a Blue Jacket when the Rangers won the only Winter Classic they have played in, 3-2, against the Flyers in Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia on Jan. 2, 2012. They also captured both outdoor Stadium Series games in January 2014 against the Islanders (2-1) and Devils (7-3) at Yankee Stadium. Only six Rangers remain on the roster from those 2014 games: Nash (acquired in a July 2012 trade), Ryan McDonagh (who also appeared at CitiField), Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal, Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider.
“I think it’s going to be unbelievable,” Nash said. “I was lucky to be part of the ones at Yankee Stadium. This is going to be quite special. The glare was tough at times, but it was fun. You’re only going to do it a few times in your whole career.”
And that impressive career, in which Nash has played 989 games and scored 416 goals, could take another turn next summer.