The Blue Jacketsí exhaustive approach to trading captain Rich Nash has churned ahead in fits and starts for more than five months now, swerving through Februaryís NHL trade deadline amid a swirl of confusion, and slipping through last monthís NHL draft with barely a hint that a trade was close.

Yesterday, on the fourth day since NHL free agency opened, the latest obstacle to getting a high-quality offer for Nash ó real or imagined ó was removed from the straight-line path Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson has taken from the start.

Zach Parise, the top free-agent forward available on the market this year, signed a 13-year, $98 million contract with Minnesota. Defenseman Ryan Suter got the same deal to join the Wild, launching the ďState of HockeyĒ into a state of euphoria not seen since the Wild made a surprising run to the Western Conference finals in 2003.

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