Jan
03

Has Rick Nash has become untouchable?

January 3, 2017, by

rangers hurricanes

Rick Nash may never again score 40 goals in a season, but his play this season should put any debate about his Rangers’ future to bed. So long as Dan Girardi is on the Rangers blue line, and Jeff Gorton doesn’t significantly address the Rangers defense, the Rangers cannot afford to get rid of a genuinely elite two-way player such as Nash.

Nash’s play without the puck and his defensive conscience are essential to the team, as in his absence we’ve seen inconsistent play from the forwards in their own zone. The Rangers are not a good team defensively and this relative ineptitude in their own zone has only enforced Nash’s importance to the cause.

Even before confirmation that he needs to be protected in the expansion draft, Nash’s own impressive play this season should have made him a player the Rangers would have protected anyway. There is simply no replacing Nash. Whether it’s his ability as a goal scorer, as a leader, or as a two-way example to the younger players on the roster. Cap hit and age be damned.

When healthy, the Rangers will outscore the vast majority of teams in the NHL but everyone knows that during the playoffs goal scoring gets tougher. Indeed, Nash himself is exhibit A of this fact. This is where Nash’s situation becomes somewhat ironic. Assuming the Rangers get to the playoffs Nash may not even be needed, in the first instance, for his scoring but more for what he provides on the penalty kill, at both ends of the rink and for his ability to look after the puck.

While Nash has been criticised for his relative lack of postseason production in the past, he should no longer be measured by such basic numbers. Hopefully come April, the Rangers will be winning playoff games thanks to their enviable depth. Nash’s line will still draw the toughest assignments and he’s a player that can handle the attention. The Brandon Pirri’s, J.T Miller’s and Michael Grabner’s will be needed to produce. While (obviously) still important Nash’s production in the postseason will not be as critical as his ability to drive possession will be.

Nash’s importance to the Rangers can of course still be measured in production even if it is no longer his primary calling card. If Nash is back in the next game or two – and he stays healthy – he’ll come close to reaching 25 goals for the season. One hot streak and Nash could still reach 30 goals for the season despite already missing 9 games. It’s unlikely but it’s not impossible. The fact he’ll have missed a month of the season (give or take) and could flirt with 30 goals is impressive. Last season, only 28 players scored 30+ goals.

In short, Nash is producing at a strong level despite Alain Vigneault spreading the ice time around evenly and the Rangers don’t have anyone to replace him sufficiently in the short term. While Chris Kreider’s strong season is encouraging it still cannot be taken for granted that Kreider will continue to score heavily, such is Kreider’s streakiness. Nash is therefore absolutely critical to the Rangers’ Cup aspirations thanks to his all-round game and production.

The Rangers are and always will be a cap team. They have deep pockets and can afford to keep Nash providing he continues to perform so, as long as the Rangers intend on contending for the Stanley Cup, Nash must remain a Ranger. If the team has to financially sacrifice a player to help address the blueline then it should not be one of their most critical pieces – it will be on Gorton to find someone else that the team can ‘afford’ to move on from. Nash’s importance has grown throughout this season and he’s never been more important to the Rangers.

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21 comments

  1. rich s says:

    I agree Nash is a keeper especially because of his all around game and his terrific PK play. With him, grabner, fast, hayes and miller on PK , it makes stepan expendable.
    However , if keeping him means having to lose a younger forward [ kreider, miller, hayes , vesey, zib , buch] in the expansion draft than we would have to consider moving him.
    Still would rather move stepan for a tough center who can shut down a ‘crosby’ , the route to the finals goes through pitts, IMHO>

  2. Pas44 says:

    kind of an expensive player, for all things he is doing don’t ya think?

    and he disappears in the playoffs, he doesn’t have a harder time scoring, like more top guns, he is sort of the A-Rod of hockey, no?

    just saying, we traded away some nice parts for him & he get paid!

  3. amy says:

    Nash played so well before his groin injury there is no reason why he can’t continue his fine play

  4. paulronty says:

    Rick Nash is the consummate 2 way forward, and even if not scoring 40 goals, he’s so valuable on the PK and for his two way game. I wonder if G can be trade to the Habs, who are looking for help on D. Could take back some salary & a pick, but once again he’d have to waive his NMC. Would he? Who knows. Gorton has to ask him, maybe he already has, since he’s on third pair minutes now. He might if he was the 7th D. My concern would be how this would affect team morale.

  5. Stranger Nation says:

    Nash is makign $7.8M not $4M so yes they can replace him but hopefully without spending that much on one player. He will be an important part of the team for balance of his contract but wouldn’t keep him over younger core if forced to make that choice.
    .
    Leader – says who? Because he wears an A I guess.
    Playoff stats don’t count – okay, small sample size but lack of compete is bigger issue in second season. (see Leadership above)
    Injury prone – has played only 1 full season in last 4; on pace for only 60 games again this season
    Age – will be 33 at end of season with 14 seasons in league; lots of wear/tear
    Production:
    Pts per 60 (all situations); 7th on team this season. 5th on NYR last 2 seasons (87th in NHL with 16th highest salary)
    Pts per 60 (PP) last 2 seasons; 8th on team; 3rd this season
    .
    This season is further evidence NYR needs to load up on productive forward talent and cannot afford to spend too much on one ‘star’ forward.
    .
    Thought he was playing best hockey since the strike shortened season before he recently got hurt. Hope the groin injury does not linger.

  6. Kris says:

    I understand the disappears in the playoffs comments but I disagree with it solely put on Nash’s shoulders. Yes, that’s what happens when you are a top paid player, but Id like to point out some things.

    Does he do the same things in the playoffs that he does in the regular season? Yes, he goes to the net, he battles for the puck. I remember one play in particular against the Kings, when a pass came across Nash was in the face off dot area, took a one timer, had quick dead to rights, and the d-man was 5-10 feet from Nash is turning as the pucks coming and the puck hits the shaft of stick. Everyone says “Nash cant score in the playoffs”.

    Part of the problem is our number 1 center and number 1 d-man. Personally I like both, but they are not on par with Cup Winning number 1’s. If you think that doesnt matter, then explain to me how Gaborik, the player who couldnt score in the playoffs 6g-7a- in 25gp as a NYR, then as a King in one run put up 14g-8-a in 26gp.

    • Stranger Nation says:

      Kris – having at least two very good forwards along with a top 10 D-man is a recipe for success. BHawks, Kings and Pens all have those. Kings did not win Cup until they acquired Jeff Carter. Good point on Gabby as well who had even less talent in his tenure here IMHO.
      .
      Nash is a very good two way player just not worth $7.8M at age 33+ after contract is over.

    • Walt says:

      After reading your post it reminded me of some of my remarks about the very subject, being Harry Houdini (spelling?) in the PO’s. Now when I think about it more, the teams always put their best checking line against Nash’s line, and the D tightened up considerably, and there really wasn’t much more in the way of a scoring threat by us.

      Now, with the four lines, when healthy, any team has to worry about the other three lines killing them, and for that reason alone, Rick should be more effective this year, assuming he stays healthy, as well as the rest of the team.

      As for his pay scale, it’s too high for his numbers, but that train left the station years ago, and the contract is for another season after this, he will be gone!!!!

  7. Hatrick Swayze says:

    To me, it’s less important what Nash is doing than what the rest of the team is doing. The jury is out, on if we’re true contenders when fully healthy. Nash can be playing lights out (making him ‘untouchable’) but if we’re not there as a team, then all the more reason to let someone else pay up to get what he can bring to the table. Many would argue the franchises biggest mistake of late has been ‘going all in’ years we shouldn’t have.

    Nash will not get moved at the deadline, but if this team doesn’t return to form as players return from injury it wouldn’t be the worst idea to consider the option.

    • Walt says:

      Hatrick

      Agree with the remark about “going all in”, like the MSL, and Yandle deals, they cost us huge numbers of draft picks, and players, what did we get in return, oh yeah a big Goose Egg !!!!!!!

  8. Peter says:

    For this season at least, Nash is most likely untouchable unless they are offered at the trading deadline a top defenseman or a kid destined to be the next Great One. He is the Rangers’ best forward when he is healthy because he has the complete set of skills a team craves in a winger.

    Problem is that at 33 the injury bug keeps biting him. I would not protect him in the expansion draft (unless they are required to do that under the rules, of which I know very little.) I would not want to lose a young forward or even Grabner to protect Nash because of his age, injury history and cap hit. Grabner is a useful cog and cheap. The young forwards have a lot of upside. Nash is a great guy, and a fine and complete player, but getting older and expensive.

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      He is required to be protected.

      • Peter says:

        Thanks, I had a suspicion that he might have to be protected.

        • Hatrick Swayze says:

          Nice hunch. The NHL came out with the official list a month or so ago. Our players include Nash, Staal, Girardi and Lundqvist.

  9. Leethcie Nut says:

    Not at 7.8M he’s not. Sure he’s scored some key goals, but we could get a 3rd line winger who PKs and backchecks very well for nearly half that. Unless he agrees to a pay cut, absolutely he should still be in trade talks (despite his clauses.) The same way he was over the summer.

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      His cap hit is 7.8 mil this year and next. Once the contract runs out, he will not still be making that…. think more like 6 mil for 3 years or 5 mil for 4 years for his next contract.

      ^I haven’t ran any comparables, that is just for sake of conversation.

  10. SalMerc says:

    I think you need to compare his value with some other forward on the team and their cost and their production at their ages. Is Zucc producing worth his contract at his age? Is Stepan? I think when you factor in cost, age and scoring, you have to consider using Nash as trade bait, but only if he can bring you back that golden piece you need. I doubt he can.

    I tend to think a guy like Zucc or Stepan can bring back more, but would you want to make that deal? If it is for that top RH defenseman, I would.

  11. Reenavipul says:

    Between the contract & the play, untouchable.

    If the only reason to rush him back is for AV to keep his job, stay on the proper rehab path. The idea is to win the Cup, getting Nash ready is more important than this coach now.

    Part of the GM’s job description is having a heart colder than my ex-wife. You can be classy as you put somebody through the trap door. Say your sorry, thank them for their services and the checks will clear.

  12. Richter1994 says:

    Nash is not as good a 5 on 5 defender as we think but he is a tremendous threat on the PK. He’s got one more year after this one so he’s not going anywhere. Plus the Rangers love him anyway, and Rick loves the Rangers.

  13. bernmeister says:

    Gave this a thumbs up because it was so well written, despite my disagreeing with the premise/conclusion.

    Since Staal/Girardi/Lundqvist are remaining on the roster pro tempore,
    the remaining larger #s must be looked at
    Stepan 6.5, Nash 7.8

    along with possibles:
    Klein 2.9 and Zuc 4.5

    We are a very good team. But not good enough.
    We MUST flip the above into (preferably a larger quantity of) cheaper assets with high(er) potential.

    Nash is simply a luxury we cannot afford.

  14. Ranger11 says:

    I don’t know why it took this long to write this stuff. When he scored 23 goals in 48 games during the strike season or when he scored 26 goals in 65 games, the year he was out with a concussion he was doing all the things defensively that he does now but fans were mostly saying he was a bust. He’s by far the best all around player the Rangers have.