Rick Nash Trade Options: Toronto Maple Leafs
Whenever there is a star player in the rumor mill Leafs Nation immediately begins to buzz, speculating (or dreaming) about how Brian Burke will trade some third liners, mediocre prospects and a bad contract to make the star a Leaf. Most of the time I put very little stock in the Leafs chances of making a major deal, but in this case I believe there is substance to Burke being able to acquire Rick Nash.
What makes this situation different? Three factors; Columbus is rebuilding making them a motivated seller, Nash wants out and will approve a deal to Toronto, and Toronto desperately needs some size scoring and leadership.
With the philosophical ideals all in alignment, the salary cap and player exchange also needs to make sense. Letís look at the Cap implications first.
Assuming a roster player or two from Toronto are involved in the deal, there is room for Nash. The trouble though is with only 16 players under contract for next season the Leafs are already at $51 million, and with CBA uncertainty who knows what the cap will be. That means if Toronto does land Nash they will likely need to clear some cap space. There are plenty of contracts on the Leaf roster that could become sacrificial lambs such as Colby Armstrong ($3 million), Clarke MacArthur ($3.25 million), Matt Lombardi ($3.5 million), and Mike Komisarek ($4.5 million). All these players have varying interest and some are more moveable than others. The return for these players in trade may be limited, but the cap room could be made.
Now I am certainly not suggesting Burke is going to trade Armstrong and Komisarek for Nash. But what players would Columbus covet from the Leafs enough to part with Nash? Scott Howson has let it be known he wants a roster player of significance, a top prospect or two and a first round draft choice. Elliotte Friedman reported on CBC that with Columbus recently acquiring Jack Johnson the focus for a roster player has become a forward.
Jake Gardiner was rumored to be the player Columbus wanted as the principal return and Toronto was reluctant. Perhaps they plan on using Gardiner as leverage to acquire his former college teammate Justin Schultz this summer. Regardless, Toronto was unwilling to include Gardiner in a deal. However if Toronto is able to acquire Schultz, Luke Schenn or Cody Franson quickly become two defensive assets that are available.
Schenn is not likely a strong enough roster player for Columbus to forget about Gardiner and move Nash, but Joffrey Lupul's impressive comeback season may be. The snag with Lupul is he has one year remaining on his contract before becoming a UFA. Despite the risk of not being able to resign Lupul Columbus may be tempted since Lupul out scored Nash this season by eight points in 16 fewer games, and the players are within one year in age. Toronto would need to add more to seal the deal, such as Franson, and a prospect such as Brad Ross or Tyler Biggs, or a draft choice.
What Columbus Gets:
Adding a forward of Lupuls stature would fit with what Friedman had reported, and Lupul who has only had one elite season, may consider signing an early extension to capitalize on his monster season. Columbus would not see much of a production drop off from Nash to Lupul (if any), saves close to $3 million in cap space, and acquires one or two more prospects in such a trade.
What Toronto Gets:
Leafs acquire a star player and make the big move they seem so desperate to do. Nash is the big, physical power forward who also provides leadership they long for.
Rick Nash grew up in the Toronto area and was a big Leaf fan growing up. Nash also owns a home in Toronto where he lives in the off season. Toronto is on the list of teams he would be willing to be traded to if not at the top of the list, and he is on their list of players they would love to acquire.
Folow me on Twitter: @pharling
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