Your name is Scott Howson, and you're the general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Your team was at least supposed to compete for a playoff spot in the Western Conference this year, but instead, you've fallen off the proverbial cliff, all the way down to the bottom of the conference. You're now out of the playoff mix -- hell, you were out of it by late October -- but the conventional wisdom is that much of it is not your fault.
The offseason moves you made were touted as bold, and they showed the fans a commitment to turning what had been a lowly franchise into a playoff-caliber competitor. With Rick Nash already in the fold, the addition of Jeff Carter via trade gave you that No. 1 center with which to play. Adding defenseman James Wisniewski a few days later was billed by Jackets blog The Cannon as a continuation of your "summer of ass-kickery."
You couldn't have seen Wisniewski's eight-game suspension coming at the beginning of the season. You couldn't have seen prolonged injury to Carter, either. The only move you should have made last offseason was one for a goaltender, because you certainly could have seen that Steve Mason isn't a No. 1 in the NHL.
But for the most part, your summer was strong. You built a playoff-caliber team and things just didn't work out.
It was your action -- or, lack of action -- following the initial implosion at the beginning of the season that made us all scratch our heads, however. It was clear very early on this season that Scott Arniel was not the right man to lead this sinking ship, yet it took you four months to fire the guy. A speedier exit for Arniel may have helped save face a bit, but instead, you threw away the milk far beyond the expiration date. The fridge smelled awful. It still does.
Yet somehow, here we are at the 2012 NHL trade deadline, and you're still in your cushy chair atop the Columbus front office. You're a lucky guy. People don't like the smell of rotten milk. Wealthy dudes that own professional hockey teams certainly don't like the smell of rotten milk either, especially when they're paying you to get rid of that smell.
But you still have your job, and here you are, with it all on the line. Your decisions at the deadline and over the next few months will certainly seal your fate as Blue Jackets general manager, one way or the other. That's why you're putting Rick Nash, star forward and franchise player, on the trade block.
You've talked to everybody who'll listen about a potential Nash trade. The usual suspects: the New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs. Just about anybody else who needs scoring right now: the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks are at the top of that list.
Yet all indications are that teams aren't all that willing to part with their future for an expensive, albeit highly-skilled, player like Nash. The Flyers and Leafs have bowed out of the mix for that reason, and there are plenty of Rangers fans who aren't interested in Nash for the same reason.
For many of these teams, it doesn't make sense to go after Nash. The price is just way too high, and all of these suitors are playoff teams this season. What if it doesn't turn into a Stanley Cup? How can you justify giving up top prospects and draft picks, as the Blue Jackets are asking?
Of course, you want all you can get for Nash. Considering your job status, you need all you can get for Nash. And it's not like you're forced to trade him away. He wants to stay in Columbus, Columbus wants him to stay. If you don't get blown away by a trade offer, you absolutely should not trade him. You have all the bargaining power, and that's a glorious position when it comes to negotiating over a player like Rick Nash.
But how many teams are legitimately interested in the guy at this deadline? The Rangers could bite, the Kings are definitely interested and maybe the Sharks are too. That's not a huge market, and considering the main hole on your team is still in the crease, and that Jonathan Bernier of the Kings is the only young goaltender really in the mix when it comes to those three teams, you're really limiting your options with an in-season deal.
If you were to wait until the summer, perhaps working a deal at the draft, you never know what could open up. The playoffs do weird things to teams, ya know?
Maybe the Flyers get involved again, and they make Sergei Bobrovsky available. Maybe the Boston Bruins realize in the postseason that they could use a talented winger like Nash and they're willing to throw Tuukka Rask in a deal.
Maybe Roberto Luongo and the Canucks win the Cup, thus making young goalie Cory Schneider expendable in a trade for Nash. (Or maybe they realize they need more scoring and will part with Schneider to get it.) The Rangers, Kings and Sharks could all still be in the mix as well.
You never know exactly what will happen to the market, but there's no doubt the market will open up more in the summer as compared to how it sits now at the deadline. If you get the offer of the century for Rick Nash between now and 3 p.m. on Feb. 27, then you should absolutely take it. But if that offer you've dreamt about doesn't pop up, there's zero reason to trade Nash. At all.
You can't be hasty with a deadline deal, just because you might feel like acting on the Nash talks is necessary now. It's your job on the line, and the future of the team is on the line here.
For more on Rick Nash trade rumors at the 2012 NHL trade deadline, stick with our StoryStream. You can get complete 2012 NHL trade deadline coverage here at SBNation.com, and Blue Jackets blog The Cannon has you covered from the Columbus perspective.