Eklund had a decent idea.

No, the blog hasn’t been hacked – I meant to write that. As whispers continue to grow that the Rangers are indeed seriously considering trading Rick Nash, the frequently mocked rumormonger “reported” that a potential destination for New York’s top forward could be the Detroit Red Wings for a package including Gustav Nyquist and draft picks.

Trading away a Hart Trophy contender is still likely a last resort for a club that has been just a few wins from the Stanley Cup in each of the last two seasons, but it’s also a move that the organization has to at least consider given the salary cap crunch. The Blueshirts barely have enough cash to keep their core together, let alone improve the roster with additions. And after getting so close to the top of the mountain in three of the last four seasons, there will again be the temptation to shake things up to avoid plateauing.

Which brings us to the aforementioned proposal. There are no sources cited nor any credible publications that have made the Nash/Detroit connection, so this is simply spit balling. That said – if momentum builds within the front office for a Nash deal, then that hypothetical trade makes a lot of sense for both sides.

When Nash was on the trade block in 2012, the Red Wings made what was described as a “hell of an offer,” so we know Detroit has had serious interest in the past. But at the time, Columbus and Detroit were both in the Central Division and there’s no way the Blue Jackets were going to deal Nash to a rival. Though Detroit is now an Eastern Conference foe and the Blueshirts would certainly prefer to ship Nash out west, this deal could prove to be mutually beneficial.

As mentioned, the Rangers’ impetus for dealing Nash would be largely financially based. Nash still has three years remaining on his contract at a $7.8 million cap hit and it will be a very tight squeeze for the Blueshirts to fit Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Jesper Fast and J.T. Miller under the salary cap this summer, and looking ahead to next year they must re-up RFAs Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes, not to mention 2016 UFA Keith Yandle, who will likely command in excess of $6 million.

There are other ways to pinch pennies – trading Kevin Klein and Cam Talbot for picks and/or prospects appears to be a foregone conclusion – but moving Nash’s massive deal would create much more flexibility and give Sather room to make upgrades elsewhere on the 2015-2016 roster.

From Detroit’s perspective, Nash would be the first true superstar wing to pair with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk that the team has lacked since Marian Hossa’s one-year stint with the Wings in 2008-2009. Though both GM Ken Holland and new coach Jeff Blashill declared their commitment to youth yesterday, Zetterberg is now 34 and Datsyuk is 36, so the window for a final run at the Cup with those two legends is closing. That, and frankly the Red Wings have more talented bodies up front than they can possibly dress every night. This is the model franchise of player development for good reason, and the Wings have already begun integrating the next wave of attackers with several others on the immediate horizon. Packaging a couple of them in exchange for a player in a class above the rest would improve the top line and help ease the logjam without doing irreparable damage to the club’s future. And thanks to all that cheap young talent, the Red Wings actually have adequate cap room to absorb Nash’s contract.

Obviously, if the Rangers were to deal Nash, the return would have to be significant. Nyquist isn’t Nash, but he’s a heck of a goal scorer in his own right. His ridiculous stretch to close the 2013-2014 season in which Nyquist potted 23 goals following January 20 to lead the league is a taste, albeit unsustainable, of his ability to finish. Nyquist has made a habit of producing highlight reel goals, possess high-end speed and is an effective two-way player.  Nyquist alone won’t score 43 goals next year as Nash did last season, but he could account for a sizable portion of that total, and the best may yet be ahead for the 25-year-old restricted free agent. Even a longer extension for Nyquist could be millions cheaper than New York’s annual commitment to Nash.

Obviously the Blueshirts wouldn’t pull the trigger on a deal for Nyquist alone, but Detroit has plenty of other appealing carrots to dangle. The two prizes are of course 2014 first-rounder Dylan Larkin and 2013 No. 20 overall Anthony Mantha. Larkin is perhaps the hottest name in the prospect world after he dominated as a freshman at the University of Michigan and potted two goals in his second AHL game during the Calder Cup Western Conference Finals.  No doubt Holland would enter trade negotiations by declaring Larkin off limits, but Sather could deem him to be a necessary component to complete the deal, much as Tim Erixon was for Columbus back when Nash was originally shipped to New York. Before Larkin, Mantha was the flavor du jour, but Wings Senior VP Jim Devellano didn’t pull any punches in describing Mantha’s first pro season as “very, very, very disappointing. I say that with a lot of sadness. Coming out of junior, we had such high hopes for him.”

Some of the comments by Mantha’s then-coach Blashill were a little more concerning, but considering Mantha had back to back 50+ goal seasons in major junior and still managed 33 points in 62 games after coming back from a broken tibia, he could be a steal if his value has dropped in Detroit’s eyes. (Of course, Blashill described Mantha far differently just a few months ago, so it’s likely the organization is just trying to light a fire under him this offseason).

Beyond those two, there are fellow Grand Rapids Griffins Teemu Pulkkinen, who is coming off consecutive 30-goal seasons and racked up 14 playoff goals this spring; Andreas Athanasiou, who, like Nyquist, has a knack for scoring spectacular goals; and Tyler Bertuzzi, who overcame a multitude of injuries and had a breakout year in the OHL. Down the road Zach Nastasiuk, Axel Holmstrom, Mattias Janmark and Dominic Turgeon also have considerable potential.

There’s also Tomas Jurco, who’s already established himself in the NHL and has pretty decent hands, Luke Glendening, who’s strong on faceoffs and the penalty kill and netted 12 goals as a checking center, and Riley Sheahan, a two-way center who improved as the season progressed and has plenty of untapped potential. Adding one or more of these players to an under-25 forward group that already includes Fast, Hayes, Kreider, Miller and Stepan – not to mention Pavel Buchnevich – could help add years to the Blueshirts’ window for contention.

Detroit also has several appealing defensive prospects including Xavier Oullet and Ryan Sproul, but the Wings don’t have quite the same surplus along their blueline and the Rangers are basically set for the foreseeable future. Veteran forwards Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm would also be desirable, but their contract statuses make them a little more tricky and Detroit probably would prefer to avoid surrendering two key contributors.

Still, the pieces are there for the Red Wings to establish an enticing package that could provide the Rangers with cap relief while keeping them right in the mix next season and beyond.

Again, the Rangers would have to be awfully sure about the return if they were to consider moving one of the league’s most gifted players, but there is a potential match in Detroit for a deal that could help both clubs.


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