Rick Nash has been the face of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Now, he's just another face in the crowd.
Monday, the Blue Jackets dealt Nash to the New York Rangers in exchange for three players and a first-round draft pick. The players are forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, along with defenseman Tim Erixon.
In doing so, Columbus general manager Scott Howson assured that his franchise had virtually no chance of "winning" this trade.
The hockey world knew that Howson had to trade Nash. It was abundantly clear at the trade deadline, when Howson announced -- to the shock of many, including me -- that Nash wanted out. The fact Howson waited five months to get this return should tell you all you need to know about the market for a $7.8 million player who has the kind of miles Nash does on his tires.
I mean no ill will towards Anisimov (only 24), Dubinsky (26), or Erixon (21). The three players are all capable at the NHL level. I especially like the character Dubinsky plays with. Anisimov has some upside as a goal-scorer. Erixon could be a top-four NHL defenseman, though he hasn't really shown that yet.
However, Howson had a duty in this process, and that was to get what he was looking for. Numerous reports had him seeking an NHL player, a prospect, and a first-round pick. Obviously, he wasn't going to get Jeff Skinner or something. But to go from asking San Jose for Logan Couture to getting what he got has to be quite the buzzkill in the Columbus front office, even if no one will publicly admit it.
The three players Glen Sather parted with to get Nash combined for 26 goals and 72 points in 174 NHL games last season. In what had to be considered somewhat of a down year for him, the durable Nash had 30 goals and 59 points in playing all 82 games.
You can't measure the quality of a trade by that, but the problem with this deal from Columbus' perspective is that there is not much breakout potential for any of the players in this trade. What you see is more than likely what you're going to get.
The lack of potential star power that comes out of this trade hurts Columbus, because Nash was the team's only star. Now, there is a huge gaping hole on the top line, and a lot of goals that need to be made up for.
The best hope that comes from this deal for Blue Jackets fans is as follows:
1. The players acquired will appreciate the opportunity being given to them in Columbus. All three players have to look at this roster and think they can become leaders on this team, something that was less likely to happen with the Rangers, a team where the head coach is a bigger star than most of the players.
(This would be similar to the way Jack Johnson handled himself after getting moved from the Kings. Not everyone has that in him, but the players Columbus acquired -- especially Dubinsky -- could easily become beloved parts of the Blue Jackets.)
2. Nash wanted out, and now he's out. It's not about Nash being a cancer or anything like that. Instead, it's about the fact that Nash sticking around would have been uncomfortable for everyone, including the GM who proclaimed in February that Nash wanted out.
Sometimes, the importance of moving a player rises above the importance of getting fair value in a trade. Perhaps his departure allows others to step up and fill the void more effectively than anyone can imagine right now.
(I'm looking at you, RJ Umberger, Ryan Johansen, Derek Brassard and Nick Foligno. Also you, Dubinsky. $4.2 million is a lot of money for a guy who scored ten goals last season.)
Howson is rebuilding again, obviously. This trade gave him a chance to find people to build around, but he wasn't able to do that. Now, he's stuck hoping Johansen or Ryan Murray can become that kind of player, and that Johnson can give them the kind of leadership Nash wasn't going to give them when he was in the GM's office demanding a trade in his spare time.
It's tough to sell this as a good deal for Columbus. It just is. However, it beats no deal at all.