rick nash

Photo: Jim McIsaac/Newsday

Continuing with the praise of guys who seem to get a lot of heat, let’s look at Rick Nash. His $7.8 million contract has been a lightning rod for people, and for good reason. Paying that much should mean star production. The key here is that “star production” can be a subjective term.

For Nash, it seems people are expecting 40-50 goals per year. I personally think that to be a bit unrealistic, as Nash has only done that twice in his career. However he’s been close to or has exceeded the 30-goal per 82-game pace for most of his tenure in New York. His injury riddled seasons the past two years being the only two where he hasn’t averaged a 30-goal pace. Injuries, especially concussions, can be very tricky.

But here’s the fun bit: Even when Nash isn’t scoring, he’s driving play all over the ice. Last year was one of his best, and he was a complete beast all over the ice. It was the most fun I’ve had watching him since he came to New York. It shows in the stats as well.

Nash is very clearly still a top line player. The good news is that with the Blueshirts, they have such talent up front that he can be the rock on the second line to drive the offense. He still draws attention all over the ice, which opens up space for his teammates.

Nash’s underlying stats are nothing to be excited about right now, as he’s middle of the road and actually under performing in all major stats –CF% (47.55%, 8th), xGF (11.39, 8th), xGF% (47.56%, 10th)– thus far. We might not see the CF% number improve much, but we should start seeing his xGF and xGF% climb. Specifically focus on the xGF%, which has been well over 50% for a while now.

The funny thing about Nash is that if he were making $4-$5 million, his production and on ice play would likely not generate much negative attention. However because of the deal he signed in Columbus, he’s a lightning rod for not putting up superstar numbers. Nash was never a 50+ goal, 100+ point guy. Few are, and that elite group certainly doesn’t include Nash.

With Nash, the Rangers have a complete hockey player who drives offense, kills penalties, and draws attention to himself on the ice. He recognizes when he has multiple defenders on him, finds the open man, and creates more offense. He uses his size and strength to lower the shoulder and drive to the net as well. There are so many little things he does that even when he isn’t scoring, he’s helping the team.

This is the last year of Nash’s contract, and he won’t get another deal worth $7.8 million per season. He will likely find a two or a three year deal between $4 million and $5 million. At that price, he’s worth every penny.