Nash trade targets and Morrow isn’t going anywhere

Rick Nash has averaged 35-31-66 every 82 games over his nine-season career. (BridgetDS/Flickr)

By: Tim Kolupanowich, Executive Editor

@TimKolupan_

One of the top two trade candidates this summer, Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo being the other, Columbus Blue Jackets winger Rick Nash has narrowed down any potential destinations to six teams. The 28-year-old from Brampton, Ont., was a contract that runs through the 2017-18 season and contains a no-movement clause until the ’14-15 season.

Originally published in the Columbus Dispatch, those six teams are said to be the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks. Although Boston, San Jose and Philadelphia are in the bottom 10 in cap space, they would be freeing up just as much salary as they are taking on in Nash’s $7.8 million cap hit as Columbus GM Scott Howson’s demands are very high. While demands may seem too high for a team that finished 30th last year, it is justified for a players of Nash’s caliber. From Aaron Portzline:

Much has been made of GM Scott Howson’s trade demands for Nash. He has set them high, and without apology. He’s taken plenty of grief — much of it deserved, as the his club was 30th in the NHL last season — and is no doubt in line for more abuse in the coming months.

But the worst thing he could is make a bad trade just to get this saga resolved. Not only does that not help the Blue Jackets — short term or long term — but, secondly, it doesn’t help preserve his job as general manager. This is the kind of trade, as Ferraro noted in Sunday’s Dispatch, that changes careers, one way or the other. It may become a nuisance to the fan bases who are currently on hold, but what’s a few weeks in July for a GM in a desperate spot.

Said one NHL GM who is not in on trade talks for Nash: “I don’t blame Scott for waiting this out. He’s not supposed to do what’s right or convenient for the other teams in the league; he’s supposed to do what’s best of his club. I’d ask for the moon, too. You can’t give away a player like that.”

Two teams you could maybe think about eliminating as destinations for Nash is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Although Nash would add yet another gear to an already stacked forward unit in Philadelphia (Could you imagine how scary with would be for opposing goaltenders if Nash and Claude Giroux had chemistry?), the Flyers don’t need any more help at forward. Their problem is still goaltending and defense, neither of which has been adequately improved this summer. The Flyers need to keep the puck out of their net and Nash won’t be of any help in that regard unless he can pull this off once a game to make up for the all the soft/back door goals allowed. If Flyers GM Paul Holmgren really wanted to put together a Cup-contending team and not just one that was exciting to watch, he shouldn’t worry too much about Nash.

Pittsburgh also may not be the right fit because his style doesn’t quite match up with that of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Each of those three players requires the puck on their stick to be effective so they may not develop the right chemistry. From Portzline:

But, a burning question during Nash’s time in Columbus has been the debate regarding what kind of center Nash truly needs. His 41-goal season came with Andrew Cassels on the pivot, but in recent years he’s never played better than he did with Manny Malhotra.

Most agree Nash needs the puck, which is why he might not be an obvious fit with some teams on his list.

“Crosby and Malkin both need the puck to be successful. Nash’s game — the way to describe him — is he’s size with the puck. He needs the puck to be successful. He lugs it to the net. He drives the net with the puck, not so much without. Well, if Crosby and Malkin need the puck, and now you’re bringing a third guy in who needs the puck … I don’t know. There’s only one puck,” (said TSN Analyst Ray Ferraro).

Though once again, it would be scary to think of him gaining chemistry with either of Pittsburgh’s two superstar centers, they, like Philadelphia also need help on defense more than offense after allowing 30 goals in their six-game loss to Philadelphia in the first round of last year’s playoffs.

It would be really interesting to see Nash in Detroit or San Jose where he can become part of a new core for two teams both in need of new faces. A first round loss to Nashville shows that Detroit could use a shot of adrenaline and Nash would be perfect. With the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom they could use a new centerpiece and would definitely help Datsyuk and Zetterberg go back to being point-per-game players. And the Sharks could do the same thing as it looks like the core of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe won’t provide the winning formula for San Jose. Nash would combine with Logan Couture to for a new, younger nucleus.

And if he is added to Boston or the Rangers, then they both become top candidates to represent the Eastern Conference in nest season’s Stanley Cup final. The Bruins just need a reliable goal scorer and they are in the hunt for their second Cup in three seasons and there has been no drop off in talent, not even in goal where they have Tuukka Rask to replace Tim Thomas. The Rangers look solid, they are just missing a player who can score those tough, grinding goals needed for playoff success. After last year’s run to the Eastern Conference final, it looks as though they have all the rest of the tools needed to win their first Stanley Cup since 1994.

*     *     *

NHL.com reported yesterday Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow was a potential trade candidate and could go to the St. Louis Blues. But today Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk squashed those rumors, saying he believes Morrow will still be in Dallas next season.

Brenden Morrow has been Dallas’ captain for the past six seasons. (Resolute/Wikimedia Commons)

The seven-time 20-goal scorer has been the captain of the Stars since the 2006-07 season and is one of their best scorers, especially on the power play. Prior to last season in which Morrow recorded 11-15-26 in 57 games, he put up 129-158-287 in 436 games since the lockout (he twice missed more than half a season due to injuries), an average of 25-30-55 every 82 games.

It’s obvious why Nieuwendyk would want to hold on to Morrow, 33,  as the GM stated (originally published in the Dallas Morning News)” I very much believe there’s a place for him on this team, I told him I fully expect him to be out there on the power play in front of the net where he’s always been.”

With the recent signings of Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney and acquisition of Derek Roy, along with Jaime Benn, Loui Eriksson and Michael Ryder, there isn’t much room available on the top two lines. However his physical presence and defenseive awareness makes it easy to find some place else for Morrow. From Mike Heika:

With the recent acquisitions of Ray Whitney and Jaromir Jagr, it seems clear that Morrow might be the extra wheel when it comes to top six minutes. However, Nieuwendyk said he believes that a spot on the third line might be a perfect fit for Morrow.

“There’s nothing written in stone, so I’m not saying he would play there, but I also think that he could play a very important part of our team in a role like that,” Nieuwendyk said. “He would bring a lot of the grit that we need there, and I still think would play in a role that would allow him to score some goals. It would also allow him to maybe stay fresher.”

Heika also mentions how Morrow has been doing some extreme workouts and his neck and back which bothered him last year feel just fine. A healthy season would be a welcome achievement for Morrow who has had several season plagued by injury. While he has had five seasons playing at least 81 games, he also only managed 40 in ’06-07, 18 in ’08-09 and 57 last year. From Heika:

Morrow said he believes he can be a part of the formula for winning. He will turn 34 in January and he has to prove that he can maintain his health, but he also played 82 games in 2010-11 and tallied 33 goals among 56 points.

“Last year was frustrating because of the injuries, but I believe I’m going to be healthy,” he said. “If I’m healthy, I believe I can play well.”

Morrow has continued his core work to strengthen his stomach and lower back muscles. He has used accupuncture and deep tissue massage on the neck and upper back, and he said he is pain free.

The Stars have a solid mix of youth and experience and keeping Morrow could only help. Dallas has started off strong in each of the past three season only to fade down the stretch and miss the playoffs by an average of five points. With more veteran players and their captain available for a full season, they should have a better chance remaining in the playoff hunt.

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