Let’s get the obvious out of the way: There is no way to replace Rick Nash in a lineup. He’s the lone game breaker this club has, and his absence has created a gaping hole in the lineup. Concussions are a tricky thing, and the Rangers aren’t exactly known for their transparency when it comes to dealing with them. Lest we forget the lack of information made publicly in regards to Michael Sauer.
Nash has now suffered a pair of concussions in less than a calendar year, and it is unknown if or when he will return. If the Rangers project him to be out long-term, and we should find out relatively soon via LTIR, then expect GM Glen Sather to explore the trade market for a replacement RW. With Nash on LTIR, the Rangers are allowed to spend over the cap by Nash’s cap hit ($7.8 million). That’s a lot of extra money to work with.
Internal options are always nice, but the Rangers simply don’t know what they have in Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, and the other kids who they hold in high regard. Don’t get me wrong, these kids –specifically Kreider– will get a shot at the top line and at replacing Nash. But expecting Kreider to replace Nash’s production is unfair. Considering this team, when healthy, is built to win a Stanley Cup, a proven winger could be on the horizon.
There are a few options on the trade market, Thomas Vanek from Buffalo being the most attractive and available option. Dany Heatly (Minnesota) and Paul Stastny (Colorado) might eventually become available. A healthy Mike Cammalleri (Calgary) could be an option as well. All four are pending UFAs.
Of course, the amount of salary the Rangers pick up in a trade would also be very telling as to the seriousness of the injury. All four of the guys mentioned above make in excess of $6 million per year. Acquiring one of them, without sending substantial salary back, puts the Rangers back at the cap ceiling. A major trade like that could signal that Nash is done for the year.
A more realistic scenario is one that has Slats going after guys like Curtis Glencross (Calgary), Lee Stempniak (Calgary), Brad Boyes (Florida), or many of the other cheaper options. They aren’t game breakers or elite talents, but they are middle of the road guys who could be a stopgap.
Needless to say, the Nash injury is a tough pill for the Rangers to swallow at the moment. With all the struggles this team has gone through, losing Nash long term would be critical. The Rangers are always hush-hush on concussions, so let’s just hope this is a short term thing.