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Possible trade destinations for Rick Nash

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Not long ago, PHT passed along word that the New York Rangers have reportedly asked Rick Nash to hand over his no-trade lists.

Basically, it breaks down as: 18 teams he wouldn’t accept a trade to and 12 teams he’d accept a trade to.

As TSN’s Bob McKenzie notes in that post, it’s possible that Nash could try to short-circuit a potential move by listing 12 teams that wouldn’t be likely to have interest. It’s also worth noting that we don’t know how either of Nash’s lists shake out.

While much is up in the air, there are some objective facts worth keeping in mind: Nash is 33, so it’s that much more likely that he’d be seen as a pure rental. As a pending UFA, he could easily return to the Rangers during the summer, if there’s mutual interest.

Nash also carries a colossal $7.8 million cap hit this season. On the bright side, Cap Friendly estimates his remaining cap hit as $2.6M as of today; either way, a team might prefer that the Rangers retain at least part of his salary, or eat a funky contract in return.

One other note: back in June 2016, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks reported that Nash would not accept a trade to a Canadian team on a previous no-trade list. It’s unclear if that stance has changed, as he might be more amenable to such an idea in a contract year.

Anyway, it could be a fun exercise to ponder 12 potential destinations for Nash. Keep in mind that this isn’t necessarily a list of the 12 most likely destinations. In a lot of cases, it came down to entertainment value, so your mileage may vary.

Now, in no particular order while assuming that the Rangers wouldn’t send Nash to the Islanders:

Columbus Blue Jackets

How fun would a reunion be?

Back in 2002, Nash became the Blue Jackets’ first-ever No. 1 overall pick after they selected fourth overall in 2000 and eighth in 2001. In nine seasons with Columbus, Nash was often the only bright side on shaky roster, scoring almost 300 goals. The nostalgia factor would be extremely cool here.

But it’s not just about that.

Nash has experience with John Tortorella, something that should never be underestimated. This Blue Jackets team seems like it should be taking the next step forward; maybe an old hero could give them that extra shove?

(It helps that Columbus has relatively solid salary cap flexibility, too.)

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Rangers might not want to enhance their division rival’s chances of winning three in a row, but what if Pittsburgh makes them a great offer?

Pittsburgh would probably need to package a contract or two to make this work (Ian Cole, maybe a Carl Hagelin reunion?), yet that thought might sweeten the pot for the Blueshirts.

Injuries have really been an issue for the Penguins, so Nash would be a nice fit, especially since he’d likely do well in their aggressive offense. Who knows how many shots this core has left, so why not take a big swing with Nash?

Washington Capitals

Bonus points in this case for uniting kindred spirits.

The Capitals put up big numbers in the regular season, only to suffer heartbreak in the playoffs, though the attacks on their character often feel like a bit much.

Rick Nash puts up big numbers in the reg–you know what, you probably get where that is going.

It would be poetic if the Capitals and Nash finally broke through together, much like that time A-Rod actually tore up the MLB playoffs.

St. Louis Blues

Injuries and regression took the bloom off the rose a bit for the Blues – remember when they were one of the hottest teams in the league? – but Nash could really tie the room together, especially if they insist on loading up with that top line of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, and Vladimir Tarasenko.

Nash – Paul StastnyAlexander Steen could be an extremely expensive and potentially dangerous second line, with plenty of motivation considering that Stastny, like Nash, is in a contract year.

You could probably assign some of that Capitals logic to Nash with St. Louis, too, as they’ve been snakebitten around spring time far too often.

San Jose Sharks

Let’s end this trilogy of torment with the Sharks (granted, San Jose shook off at least some of its baggage in making the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.)

This Sharks team is getting old enough that Nash won’t stick out like a sore thumb, so that’s nice.

Speaking of soreness, the Sharks’ trade decisions may hinge on Joe Thornton‘s knee, and adding Nash would make a lot of sense with a reasonably healthy Jumbo Joe. The two enjoyed some great scoring times together in Switzerland during one of the NHL’s lockouts, so maybe they’d rekindle that magic again? Thornton’s one of the rare expiring contract guys who’s actually making slightly more than Nash at $8M.

Dallas Stars

Consider how imbalanced the Stars’ scoring has been this season, and then imagine what would happen to this team if one or more of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, and John Klingberg got hurt?

Nash could add some punch to a team that’s making strides under Ken Hitchcock. You might not think that Dallas is a team that needs to worry about its window closing, but consider this: Tyler Seguin’s $5.75M cap hit expires after 2018-19. If they lock him up after that (psst. they should), then they might not have the cash for future rentals.

Why not stream a blockbuster while you still can?

Boston Bruins

Most of these teams would need the Rangers to take on a shaky contract, retain some salary, or both. The B’s rank as one of the tougher nuts to crack in that regard, and I’d wager that they’d probably be a better destination for fellow Rangers trade piece Michael Grabner with all of that in mind.

That said, it would be an interesting fit. During a playoff series, someone might miraculously slow down the locomotive that is the Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronDavid Pastrnak line. If so, a supplemental scorer such as Nash could make a sneaky-impressive Bruins team that much more formidable.

Winnipeg Jets

So, we’re going to name a Canadian team here or there, just in case. As Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos said on Saturday:

“Maybe, just maybe, a guy like Rick Nash would be of interest,” Kypreos said. “I don’t know whether or not that would fit in with where he is in his list of teams that he’d want to go to. But that’s the type of guy I think that Winnipeg would be looking at.”

Beyond the Jets’ legitimate potential for a deep run (or at least a first ever playoff win), imagine how much offense Nash could generate if he landed on a line with Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele? Hey, if Nash waited until closer to the trade deadline, he’d bypass a good chunk of the brutal Winnipeg winter as well.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Winnipeg seems more realistic than Toronto if Nash resists the fishbowl atmosphere of Canadian media coverage. That said, maybe playing for Mike Babcock would make a difference?

Babs loves his veteran forwards, and his heart likely warms for Canadian Olympians, so that’s two boxes Nash checks off.

Again, this one might be far-fetched, yet Nash in a Maple Leafs jersey sounds pretty fun.

Anaheim Ducks

Ignore the Ducks’ youthful, impressive defensemen for a moment and consider their aging veteran forwards. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are both 32, while Ryan Kesler is 33. Much like Nash, these guys have a lot of mileage on them as longtime go-to players.

It’s been an odd duck season for Anaheim, but if they can get it together (and lock up a playoff spot), few teams would be all that eager to face this team in the playoffs. Nash could be that boost they need.

Los Angeles Kings

At least when it comes to forwards, the California teams sure feel a little creaky these days, don’t they?

Much like with the Sharks and Joe Thornton, a flawed Kings team could be a dangerous dark horse candidate if a) they land Nash and b) their injured center – in this case, Jeff Carter – can come back and be at least mostly himself.

Then again, the old guard in L.A. loved going for power forwards in Jarome Iginla and Milan Lucic, and those short-term moves left quite a bit to be desired, so maybe this wouldn’t appeal enough to the Kings.

Philadelphia Flyers

You could put a number of teams in this 12th spot. Maybe the Devils and Rangers would make nice long enough to find a deal? Perhaps the Hurricanes would be proactive and try to fight their way out of purgatory?

Philly might be a little harsh for a streaky scorer like Nash, but look at that current lineup, and imagine it with that little extra “oomph.” Nash could allow the Flyers to move Jakub Voracek back with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. He could fit into that deadly top power play or maybe echo Phil Kessel in Pittsburgh by giving this team a more varied attack.

Despite a frustrating four-game losing streak, the Flyers are still in wild card position as of this writing. GM Ron Hextall has done a masterful job breaking the organization’s old, reckless habits of going after headline-stealing trades and signings. Still, every now and then it actually pays to be bold. They merely need to consult the other team in their state for prime examples.

***

To reiterate, this is not a list of the 12 teams Nash would accept trades to. He still might refuse a trip to the Great White North. He may only want to stay as close to NYC as possible.

That said, it can often be as fun to picture different trade scenarios as it is to watch real ones play out.

What are some other teams that would make sense? And would you even want Nash on your team? Do tell.

NHL.com’s Dan Rosen reasonably throws the Nashville Predators in the mix, too:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Rangers’ Panarin returns to Columbus the way he left: as a superstar

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Aside from no-brainer cases such as Nathan MacKinnon being paid essentially half of his on-ice value (maybe less), it can be tricky to say that an expensive free agent signing is “worth the money.” Especially since the New York Rangers have been worse than their 13-10-3 record would indicate.

So … maybe you’d argue Artemi Panarin hasn’t been worth every dime of his $11.64M AAV, but I believe emphatically that he’s at least justified the hype as the rare superstar to actually hit unrestricted free agency.

Thursday serves as a momentous occasion to consider that decision, as Panarin is playing against the Blue Jackets for the first time in Columbus since deciding to leave for the Rangers. Let’s look at this situation from a few different angles.

Still a superstar

As the headline suggests, Panarin remains a dynamic talent.

Even with a two-game pointless drought coming into Thursday’s game, Panarin has been producing, generating 12 goals and 33 points in 26 games. If Panarin managed to maintain this pace over an 82-game season, he’d set new career-highs with 39 goals, 67 assists, and 106 points.

He might not be able to maintain it. While Panarin’s shooting percentage isn’t totally out of order, his playmaking might cool ever so slightly (his on-ice shooting percentage – a decent way to see if a player’s assists might be a touch inflated – is very high at 15.6 percent, compared to a career average of 10.8).

Even so, if Panarin stays healthy, he’s off to a hot enough start that he might beat his career-high of 87 points.

Most importantly, Panarin is still extremely good, and brings more to the table than just the highlight reel passes and goals.

By most underlying numbers, Panarin is more or less the same player: a dynamic offensive presence who doesn’t seem to hurt his team defensively. Maybe you can chalk that up to the notion that the best defense is to not have to play defense because you have the puck all the time, but either way, he’s remarkable. Check out the past three seasons of his heat maps via Hockey Viz’s Micah Blake McCurdy:

(As a reminder, lots of red and a positive number up top, in the offensive side is great, and not lots of red and a negative number in the bottom [defensive] half is also great. So, basically, Panarin ruled and still rules.)

Via the Point Hockey’s stats, Panarin is tied with Mathew Barzal for the lead in offensive zone puck possession (1:12 per game) and Panarin’s 72 completed passes to the slot ranks fourth overall.

At this point, it’s not about if Panarin is still an elite player, but where he ranks among the cream of the crop.

Not downplaying the meaning of the game

Plenty of people involved with the Rangers acknowledge that Thursday’s return to Columbus means a lot to Panarin. Panarin himself admitted as much on Wednesday, as the New York Post’s Larry Brooks reports.

“I’m pretty excited. It’s not going to be a regular game for me,” Panarin said. “It’s going to be a different game, I’m going to try to show the best I can.”

Via The Athletic’s Rick Carpiniello (sub required), current Rangers and former Blue Jackets executive John Davidson believes that Panarin might be a “little apprehensive” about how he’ll be received. Going to the Rangers was basically Panarin’s first full-fledged choice (his options were limited when he came to the Blackhawks from the KHL, and it wasn’t his call when Panarin was traded to Columbus), so here’s hoping that Blue Jackets fans are as understanding as 1st Ohio Battery’s Chris Pennington recommends.

Breadless

So far, it’s been an up-and-down season for Columbus, who have lost two in a row and sit at 11-2-4.

While Sergei Bobrovsky‘s bloated contract and rocky start make his departure seem like a possible blessing in disguise, it’s tougher not to miss Panarin.

In particular, I’ve been curious to see how Pierre-Luc Dubois has fared without Panarin. He’s been glued to Panarin for the first two years of his career, making it difficult to tell just how good he is. (We knew PLD was a very useful player, but a star like Panarin can really shine you up.)

So far … mostly very good. Like Panarin, is heat maps look strong as ever:

With 18 points in 27 games (thanks to a dry spell of one assist in his last five games), Dubois isn’t quite on last season’s 61-point pace, but he’s not so far off, and has a shot at his first 30+ goal season.

Sure, Dubois proving himself doesn’t totally soothe things for a Columbus team facing ups and downs, yet it’s something they can hang their hat on as Panarin comes back to town.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Slumping Stars make not so rad move by scratching Radulov

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When a team is on a losing streak, desperation can start to climb. Sometimes, that brings the best out of teams and management. Sometimes people get fired, or traded, or someone becomes a scapegoat.

The Dallas Stars made the eyebrow-raising decision to scratch winger Alexander Radulov heading into Thursday’s game against divisional rival Winnipeg. The Athletic’s Sean Shapiro reports that head coach Jim Montgomery explained that the move is “best for” the team, while Radulov declined the chance to comment.

If you make only a surface-level look at recent results, it’s easy to see what Montgomery is thinking.

Most obviously, the Stars are on a four-game losing streak, and one would argue that they might need a jolt. Putting a top player in street clothes could serve as a shock to the system to other players who might be perceived as underachieving — at least that’s the way such logic would go.

Before the Stars’ losing streak, Radulov scored two goals and one assist. During this four-game skid, Radulov has failed to score a point.

Maybe just as important, if not more, to Montgomery is that Radulov’s also taken three penalties (six PIM) during that skid. People have also noted that Radulov responded to his last healthy scratch with a hat trick.

… But I can’t say I really sign off on the move.

For one thing, Radulov’s been a scapegoat far too often during his underappreciated career, with the most memorable flare-up stemming from Barry Trotz’s harsh reaction to him missing curfew during a Predators playoff run many moons ago. Things … didn’t really work out in the long run there for the Predators, or Radulov.

Now, sure, it’s true that Radulov isn’t getting the same box score results as he had during his previous two seasons with the Stars. After scoring 27 and 29 goals along with 72 points in each of 2017-18 and 2018-19, Radulov has 15 points through 29 games, good for just a 43-point pace.

There are a lot of context clues hinting at why his production is down.

While Tyler Seguin remains his most common forward line mate at even-strength, Radulov’s spent about as much time with Seguin as without him, versus the past two seasons, where he spent about two-thirds of his ice time with Seguin.

Radulov’s underlying stats indicate that he’s still a tremendous offensive talent, while providing an underrated defensive impact:

It’s understandable if the Stars are a little disappointed with his production, but with reduced ice time compared to previous seasons (he’s averaging 17:16 minutes per night after logging about 20 minutes per game during his first two Stars campaigns) and less time with Seguin, it shouldn’t be surprising that there’s a drop-off.

That’s especially true since, frankly, Montgomery isn’t exactly unleashing the hounds. This Stars team can be sometimes agonizingly passive, and so it’s tough to be surprised when production is spotty.

(Hence why many of us hockey observers have been so frustrated when Jamie Benn and especially Seguin get thrown under the bus.)

Perhaps there’s a way to get more out of Radulov. Frankly, while I don’t really buy the armchair psychology of “motivating” Radulov through a healthy scratch, there’s a solid chance he’ll return and get back on track. Considering the fact that Radulov is 33, you could dress it up as (likely accidental) “load management.”

Not to blow any minds, but you have a better chance to win when you put better players on the ice, though, so I can’t say that I love this move. It doesn’t seem like Radulov thinks it’s all that rad, either.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Bargain star MacKinnon says he’d take less money again to help Avalanche win

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If you could choose one active NHL player to build a team around, who would it be?

In a vacuum, the answer should be obvious: Connor McDavid. Yet, when you consider salary cap realities, the choice gets fuzzier thanks to the absolutely ludicrous bargain the Colorado Avalanche are enjoying with Nathan MacKinnon.

With all due respect to the steals teams like the Bruins enjoy with David Pastrnak, you can’t really beat the bang for the buck the Avalanche get for MacKinnon (unless you try to cheat with rookie contracts, which: tsk, tsk).

MacKinnon, 24, is currently in the fourth season of a contract that carries an outrageously team-friendly AAV of just $6.3M, and delightfully for Colorado, that deal won’t expire until after the 2022-23 season. That cap hit is barely more than half of the $12.5M AAV McDavid carries, and frankly, McDavid is worth every penny of the league maximum. (And MacKinnon likely deserves something in that range, too.)

You have to wonder if MacKinnon must want to fire his agent after seeing players like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner cashing in on their second deals, but the speedy Avalanche center mostly shrugged it off — though with some humor — telling Forbes’ Jordan Horrobin that, in the grand scheme of things, MacKinnon has “no regrets” about signing his contract.

After all, MacKinnon is doing just fine, with Cap Friendly estimating his career earnings at $27.025M so far. Yes, MacKinnon deserves more, but unless Elon Musk or Bill Gates is reading this post, you’d agree that it’s a good problem to have.

Even so, fans of teams with stars on less team-friendly contracts likely feel jealous when they see MacKinnon ripping through defenses at a cut rate. Those fans may grit their teeth, then, while Avs fans may want to throw up confetti when they realize that MacKinnon indicated to Horrobin that he’d sacrifice some dollars on his next contract if it helped the Avalanche win big.

“We have guys that we wouldn’t (otherwise) be able to bring in,” MacKinnon said. “On my next deal, I’ll take less again. Because I want to win with this group.”

Now, sure, “less” is likely to be a relative term. Maybe it would mean that MacKinnon would “settle” for a bit less than whatever the maximum salary would be. The league’s salary structure and revenues could really blossom by 2022 (the first summer where MacKinnon could sign an extension) or after 2022-23, when his deal expires. Or maybe MacKinnon would follow his buddy Sidney Crosby and give the Avalanche another extreme sweetheart deal.

And, obviously, things can change fast. The Avalanche could fall off the rails compared to their current seemingly skyrocketing upward trajectory, or MacKinnon could clash with management, making the prospect of leaving even more money on the table far less palatable down the line.

But the concept of getting another value contract with MacKinnon is ultimately extremely promising for the Avs.

After all, this bursting group of young talent figures to become pretty costly down the line. Cale Makar is already flirting with superstar status, and he’ll need a second contract after 2020-21. Philipp Grubauer only has two more years on his active contract, too, and could prove he’s worth far more than his current $3.33M AAV. Gabriel Landeskog‘s contract expires during that same offseason.

You can see how the belt could really tighten for the Avalanche down the line, and while MacKinnon should command a huge raise whenever he inks his next contract, it sounds like he might be willing to compromise to try to win a Stanley Cup (or, perhaps if he parallels Crosby in more than just taking less money for the team, winning multiple Stanley Cups).

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Coyotes’ Soderberg thriving despite blindness in left eye

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — The darkest time came right after the injury. Months in the hospital. Multiple surgeries. Pain, fear, little hope.

Playing hockey again was not even a remote consideration. Carl Soderberg had bigger concerns.

”I was more worried about my eye and would I get my vision back,” Soderberg said.

The Arizona Coyotes made the biggest splash of the offseason, trading for highly productive right wing Phil Kessel.

But the addition of Soderberg might have been Arizona’s biggest move.

A 6-foot-3, 210-pound center, Soderberg has given the Coyotes a big body to go with all those fast, skilled young players.

He’s a willing jostler outside the crease, creating traffic in front of opposing goalies and shooting lanes for his teammates. He’s the guy who goes into the corners to dig pucks out. Need a big hit, he’s Arizona’s guy.

Soderberg also is skilled, tied with Christian Dvorak for second on the team with eight goals. He’s also tied for fifth with 15 points through 29 games.

”He’s a guy that goes to the net. He’s always around the net,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said. ”He’s just fit in and he’s a big body. It’s nice to have those big bodies. He’s done a nice job for us.”

The most amazing part of Soderberg”s NHL success: he’s legally blind in his left eye.

He was injured while playing in the Swedish Elite League in 2006 when an opponent tried to lift his stick and hit his eye instead. Soderberg suffered a detached retina, spent three months in the hospital because of pressure in his eye and lost track of how many surgeries he had, estimating between eight and 10.

A young player reaching his prime, Soderberg was in too much pain to think about his hockey career.

”The pressure in my eye was so high for months,” the 34-year-old said. ”It wouldn’t go down, so I was in constant pain, getting constant headaches and worried if I would ever be able to see out of my eye again. I just wanted to feel good again.”

Once the pressure started to go down, Soderberg began working out and, within about a year, was playing hockey again. His return was difficult, from figuring out how to play with limited vision to quashing the fear that comes with having been struck in the eye with a stick.

”It was a little different on the eyes, I was scared, afraid to get hit again,” he said. ”It took me a couple years to fully get back.”

Soderberg worked through the tentativeness and adjusted his game, learning to turn his head more to see the puck and having a better understanding of where everyone is on the ice.

”You have to be more aware, you have to listen to your teammates, look around you a little bit more,” Soderberg said.

Willie O’Ree knows what Soderberg is going through.

Playing at a time when players didn’t have helmets much less visors, O’Ree took a slapshot to his right eye during a game in 1956. O’Ree lost nearly all the vision in his eye and was told he would never play hockey again.

Undeterred, he started skating two weeks after leaving the hospital and adjusted his game. Being a left-handed left wing helped some, but seeing the puck to his right required turning his head all the way to the right so he could see it with his left eye.

O’Ree went on to become the first black player in the NHL in 1958 and played 21 seasons in a variety of leagues. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018, has an NHL community award named in his honor and currently serves as the league’s diversity ambassador.

”You never took an eye exam, so I said, if I’m good enough to make the team with one eye, just don’t tell them,” O’Ree said. ”I was getting hit a lot more than I did before, but I was able to play 21 years with one eye.”

Soderberg is playing his eighth NHL season while seeing little more than light in his left eye. He spent three seasons with Boston and four with Colorado before being traded to Arizona for Kevin Connauton and a draft pick last summer.

Soderberg, who has 94 goals and 166 assists in 511 career games, has been a big reason the Coyotes are off to one of the best starts in franchise history, entering Wednesday’s games a point behind Edmonton in the Pacific Division.

”I have a good feeling about us as a group,” Soderberg said. ”We should be at the top of our division at the end and that’s our goal.”

It’s hard not to trust Soderberg’s vision at this point.