When Rick Nash was dealt by the Columbus Blue Jackets to the New York Rangers, it was the blockbuster trade of 2012 offseason. The two-time 40-goal scorer was moving into the biggest media market of them all, and small-market Columbus was without their lone super star — their face of the franchise. They certainly didn’t walk away empty handed, however, as they received Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixson and a first-round pick for their outgoing stud.
A lot of hockey has been played since then, and fortunes for the Blue Jackets have changed for the better. The Rangers are still in the thick of the playoff conversation, but seem to have taken a step or two back since their 2011-12 season. The dust from this trade, even 17 months after the fact, still hasn’t settled, but that doesn’t mean we can’t identify an early winner.
Let’s first take a look at Nash’s NYC production. Nash started off his Manhatten tenure with a bang — 21 goals and 42 points in 44 games of a truncated NHL season. His postseason performance was hardly the stuff of legends, though. His second season didn’t get off to the best of starts after receiving a concussion that kept him off the ice for 17 games. Ever since he has been back, his production has taken a dip, having only scored 22 goals and 34 points in 53 games played. How much is to blame on the residuals of a serious concussion or on simple mediocre play is anyone’s guess.
On the Blue Jackets’ end, Dubinsky and Anisimov combined for 13 goals and 38 points in their first Jackets season. Prospect Erixson made a few appearances with the big club, often playing well, but never well enough to stick. This season so far, Dubi and Arty have combined for 32 goals and 74 points. When you also factor in both of their invaluable penalty-kill contributions and sound two-way play in general, they’ve given Columbus fans a lot smile about.
Nash scored two goals in his last outing, but prior to that, his lack of production was making its way into headlines of hockey magazines and New York media. When you make $7,800,000 a year, much more is naturally expected. The Rangers certainly received a stellar hockey player, but would he even be considered second-tier category of NHL stars at this point? Wherever you rank his play and ability, his output is not the proper bang for buck fans or what Rangers management should expect from someone they pay and gave up so much for.
While in Columbus, Nash was a one-man show for many a season. How he accomplished what he did on rosters that made you wonder if they were an AHL team in disguise teeters on miraculous. Many experts and pundits thought there was a lot more for Nash to give, he just didn’t have the roster to enhance his skill set. If he had a superior team around him, his stats would shoot up into the stratosphere.
Many no longer peg New York as legitimate Stanley Cup contender, but their roster is certainly better than the Nash-lead 2011-12 incarnation of the Jackets that finished dead last in the league. Even surrounded by better, proven talent, Nash’s numbers outside of the lockout-shortened season have left much to be desired.
Columbus is already enjoying the fruits of the Nash trade via Dubinsky and Anisimov, but more may be yet to come. Erixson has shown flashes of NHL-caliber greatness while with the big club. He’s made good use of his time in the minors though, being a consensus AHL All-Star pick this year. If the Jackets didn’t have such an embarrassment of riches with their defensive prospects, he’d likely already be on the big club.
Let’s not forget that Kerby Rychel, the Jackets first-round choice from the pick they received from New York, is playing well at the junior level and could become a valuable contributor down the line.
To Nash’s defense, 97 games played does not a legacy make. If he can return to his near point-per-game production, his performance this season so far will be viewed as a mere aberration. If this season remains the status quo though, we’ll be hearing rumblings from Broadway for a long time. While the dust is far from settled, Nash’s lack of offensive output and his astronomically high price tag doesn’t beat what Anisimov and Dubinsky have done in Columbus so far. That’s why, in the here and now, the Jackets can soundly be declared winners of the Nash trade.