Rick Nash

Getty

It’s an ‘important year for me,’ says Nash, who enters final year of deal

6 Comments

Rick Nash has seen his goal and point production drop in the last two years, but there should be plenty of motivation for him to try to turn that around this season.

Nash, who turned 33 years old in June, is now in the final year of an eight-year, $62.4 million contract and is eligible to hit the open market at the end of the season.

It wasn’t that long ago, Nash, already an accomplished scorer, had wrapped up his best season ever in terms of goal production with 42. That number dropped by quite a bit — as did his shooting percentage, shots-on-goal total, and number of games played — to 15 goals the following season in 2015-16.

Read more: Rick Nash at career crossroads in contract year

Last season, which was again interrupted by injury, he scored 23 times, which is a step back in the right direction for the veteran forward.

He’s made it no secret that this contract year is significant for his future.

“Every year I want to have the best year possible. But this year, it’s an important year for me personally,” said Nash, per the New York Daily News. “It’s an important year for the Rangers, too. We still haven’t achieved that goal (winning the Stanley Cup) that we all want to achieve.”

The big question over the next few months will be about whether or not the Rangers decide to bring him back following this season. If they do, what will the price be? Nash has only twice in his 14-year career fallen short of the 20-goal mark, with that most recently occurring in 2015-16. But he will also be 34 years old when free agency opens again next July.

The Rangers have already started the transition of getting younger and faster, and, following another playoff loss, the offseason produced more changes to the roster with the buyout of Dan Girardi and the trade of Derek Stepan.

“It’s sports,” said Nash, per the New York Post. “That’s what happens with contracts — your contract is up and you play for another contract. That’s what I’m facing this year.”

Rick Nash at career crossroads in contract year

Getty
5 Comments

This post is part of Rangers Day on PHT…

New York Rangers GM Jeff Gorton has indeed done a great job managing the team’s salary structure. In that context, it might be tough to justify the idea of extending an aging power forward who will be 34 when his current deal expires next summer.

There are more than a few people who believe that the Rangers would be wise to bring Rick Nash back, however. Just recently, Josh Lipman made such an argument for Fansided and a similar thought surfaced from Jackson Heil of The Hockey Writers.

Of course, wherever Nash goes, he figures to see a decrease in pay – maybe a drastic drop – from the $7.8 million cap hit that expires after 2017-18.

For Nash, it’s a fork in the road during what’s been a somewhat odd career.

Nash is closing in on 500 career goals, as the winger already produced 416 in 989 regular-season games. He’s become quite the specialist in New York, scoring 127 goals vs. 97 assists in 315 contests with the Rangers.

On those playoff questions

As Rangers fans likely know too well, there have been some playoff headaches.

It’s wrong to say that Nash has never enjoyed postseason success. In 19 games during their 2015 run, he managed 14 points. He also had four points in what was otherwise a miserable five-game series for the Rangers against the Penguins in 2016.

His strange run of bad luck resurfaced this past postseason, so for all we know, Nash might not ever fully silence critics regarding his supposed lack of “clutch play.”

Best option available?

When people picture Nash’s future, many envision him hitting the free agent market in 2018.

The Rangers might not be so wise to outright dismiss bringing Nash back, though. New York boasts some nice forwards, but it’s plausible that Nash could remain one of their most reliable snipers, even at an advanced age. Lipman points out that Nash easily outclasses other Rangers during his time with the team from a sniping perspective; while he generated 127 goals during that time, the second-most prolific scorer was Derek Stepan, who only managed 90.

It’s worth noting that, despite being limited to 67 regular-season games in 2016-17, Nash still scored 23 goals. Nash generated 42 goals as recently as 2014-15, which was one of his only healthy campaigns with the Rangers.

Now, it’s rarely safe to assume that a player will become more durable as he ages, so that’s another concern to consider.

Still, if the price is reasonable, Nash brings a lot to the table.

The 2017-18 season stands as a year that could have a huge impact on Nash’s future. The Rangers should at least keep an open mind about being a part of his future beyond this next season.

Let’s look at Rangers’ contracts after Zibanejad signing

Getty
2 Comments

The New York Rangers are no strangers to big off-season (and trade deadline) changes, and this summer has been no different.

Phew, that’s quite the series of changes, and it’s not necessarily covering every single facet.

So, that leaves us with some questions: what are the Rangers left with, and what does the future look like beyond 2017-18?

Spending on players in their own zone

When checking out the Rangers’ salary structure at Cap Friendly, it’s clear that the Rangers’ long-term commitments lie in Henrik Lundqvist ($8.5 million cap hit through 2020-21) and the defense in front of him.

Shattenkirk, 28, is the highest-paid blueliner of the bunch … at least for now.

His $6.65M cap hit is more manageable than some anticipated, particularly since the term isn’t too risky at four years. Shattenkirk, Marc Staal (30 years old, $5.7M), and Brendan Smith (28, $4.35M) all see their contracts expire after the 2020-21 season.

Shattenkirk may not be the most expensive Rangers defensemen for too long, as Ryan McDonagh is due for a raise quite soon. The 28-year-old’s $4.7M cap hit is a bargain, but his deal runs out after 2018-19. McDonagh would hit unrestricted free agency if the Rangers can’t figure something out there.

As mentioned before, the Rangers are trying to shake Holden’s $1.65M cap hit (a deal that only runs through 2017-18), but either way, he likely won’t be part of the mix for long. Brady Skjei, on the other hand, stands as an especially intriguing consideration. His rookie deal expires after next season, and with it that $925K cap hit. It will be intriguing to see how much he gets, and when the Rangers aim to sign him (as they technically could do that now if they’d like).

Staal’s $5.7M is a problem, especially going forward. Otherwise, the Rangers seem to be spending their money reasonably wisely on the blueline.

The goalies behind that defense should be fascinating to watch, as Pavelec has plenty to prove after years of Raanta giving Lundqvist very valuable breaks.

Uncertainty beyond Zibanejad?

It’s one thing to have three defensemen locked down for at least three seasons; it’s another to see that the Rangers only have three forwards with at least three years of term remaining.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, yet it’s a bit of an eyebrow-raiser for a team that once made a lot of shaky bets on long-term deals for scorers.

Right now, these are the three Rangers forwards who are signed through 2019-20 or later:

Zibanejad: 24, $5.35M, expires after 2021-22 (would be UFA)
Chris Kreider: 26, $4.625M, expires after 2019-20 (UFA)
Jesper Fast: 25, $1.85M, expires after 2019-20 (UFA)

Those deals are good-to-great, and the best news is that those players are in the thick of their primes.

It’s fascinating to note some of the decisions that are looming, though.

After a long stretch of being a trade rumor magnet, Rick Nash, 33, will see his $7.8M cap hit evaporate after 2017-18. That could come in handy as the Rangers will see noteworthy forwards (and also Skjei) like J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes, and Jimmy Vesey become RFAs. Desharnais is slated to be a UFA, and most importantly, Michael Grabner is too … and will almost certainly command a significant raise from his dirt-cheap $1.65M.

Some interesting deals only have two years remaining, including Mats Zuccarello‘s $4.5M and Pavel Buchnevich‘s ELC.

***

All things considered, the Rangers are in pretty good shape. It’s up to GM Jeff Gorton to keep it that way.

Report: Duchene could start next season with Avs

Getty
12 Comments

If you’ve been wondering why Matt Duchene is still a member of the Colorado Avalanche, here’s an update from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:

Everyone decided to take a deep breath and go back to their corners when Matt Duchene wasn’t traded July 1. It sounds like everyone is realizing the possibility he could start next season in Colorado. But remember this: Avalanche assistant GM Chris MacFarland was with Scott Howson in Columbus when Howson waited until July 20, 2012, to trade Rick Nash. Sometimes the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour, and MacFarland could be following that blueprint. I wouldn’t be surprised if interested parties (Boston, Columbus, Nashville, Pittsburgh, maybe Calgary) try again to see if anything shakes loose.

Friedman goes on to say that Duchene’s contract, which has two years left on it, could be a stumbling block.

We’ve written about that in the past. If Duchene only had one year left, an acquiring team could immediately sign him to an extension, like when the Avs traded Ryan O’Reilly to Buffalo.

But with two years left, it’s more complicated because an extension can’t be signed until next summer. That means an acquiring team would have to trust that Duchene wanted to stay long-term. And even if he said he did, there’d still be a risk he could change his mind.

Another factor in all this is that the Avs absolutely have to nail this deal. Certainly, they need to do better than what they got for O’Reilly.

To illustrate, it’s been reported that the Columbus Blue Jackets offered defenseman Ryan Murray to Colorado as part of a package for Duchene.

With all due respect to Murray, the second overall draft pick in 2012, he is not the franchise defenseman the Jackets had hoped he’d be. If the Avs are going to trade Duchene, they’ll need to get a guy with a higher ceiling than Murray’s.

And that’s the toughest part for GM Joe Sakic. As we’ve said before, fixing a defense with trades is not easy to do. Sure, the Jackets were able to get a good, young defenseman in Seth Jones, but they had to give up Ryan Johansen to get him.

The key there? Johansen was under club control for more than two years.

Related: Cale Makar goes fourth overall to Avs

NHL Draft profile — Owen Tippett

Getty

THN Banner

Like we’ve done in the past, we’re profiling top prospects who may hear their names called in the first round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

And, for the second year in a row, we’re featuring special guest analysis from Ryan Kennedy, associate senior writer and prospect expert at The Hockey News.

Owen Tippett (RW)

Height: 6-foot-0 Weight: 203 pounds Shoots: Right

Team: Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

Country: Canada

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 7 North American skater

Kennedy says: “Tippett may be one of the most divisive talents available in the draft. The offensive tools are undeniable: he’s fast, he’s big and he’s got a wicked shot. But some teams wonder about his play away from the puck.

“The Mississauga Steelheads star certainly knows he needs to work on his defensive game and he has time to hammer those details out, but NHL teams must buy what he is selling. Some are already on board and would much rather have a talent such as Tippett who can change the game with one rush up the ice, since defense can always be coached. How high that particular team drafts (or trades up) may determine when this Rick Nash-type gets picked.

“And for what it’s worth, Tippett had a very solid playoff run in the OHL.”

For the rest of the 2017 NHL Draft profiles, click here