RALEIGH Its only natural to fantasize this time of year, with the NHLs trade deadline just 10 days away.
Its a little easier if youre a follower of the San Jose Sharks, too. Columbus superstar Rick Nash is on the market, and its being reported that the Sharks are interested. The feeling is at least somewhat mutual from Nash, who has San Jose on his list of acceptable destinations according to the Columbus Dispatch.
At this point, it seems very unlikely that he will get a chance to line up with his good buddy Joe Thornton for the stretch run and playoffs, in which San Jose will try and put an end to its 20-year Stanley Cup drought.
Put yourself in Columbus general manager Scott Howsons shoes for a moment. If you were trading one of the league's marquee players, and the man that has been the face of your franchise and most popular player for a while now, what would you want in return?
Howson is undoubtedly asking for a kings ransom in exchange for Nash. That includes a current established NHL player and a combination of prospects and draft picks. Its surprising enough that Howson, who has made a multitude of questionable moves for the organization, is even allowed to make this decision in the first place but thats a story for another day.
That being said, if Doug Wilson is on the line, what would you be asking him in return for Nash?
Well, for one, this deal likely wouldnt get done without Joe Pavelski, since hes one of the clubs major offensive threats that doesnt have a no-movement clause. It's doubtful that the Sharks would part ways with their 22-goal scorer that has been piling up goals and assists lately, not to mention that the power play has surged since Pavelski was put back on the point just before the All-Star break. Oh, and Pavelski is one of the NHL's best faceoff men for a team that relies so heavily on puck possession.
Ryane Clowe? With 10 goals and 23 assists thats not sexy enough of a name if youre in Howsons unenviable position of selling the trade to an overtly skeptical fan base. Sharks fans, as well as the coaches and management, know how valuable Clowe is on and off the ice. That wouldn't do it.
Logan Couture is obviously a non-starter.
But the Sharks have goaltending, you say, and thats a position in which the Blue Jackets desperately need help. Steve Mason has been every bit as bad as his numbers suggest (7-20-2 record, 3.40 goals-against average, .887 save percentage), and may be the single biggest reason that Columbus finds itself buried in last place in the league.
Thomas Greiss has been good as an NHL backup that much is true. But the sample size of his performance is just not large enough. Hes 4-0-1 in his last five starts but all of those were against teams not currently in playoff position, including a pair of wins over the Blue Jackets themselves.
Alex Stalock is intriguing, but has to prove he can play after sitting out for a year due to a serious severed nerve injury. Tyson Sexsmith isnt a big enough prospect, despite his AHL All-Star appearance last month.
Theres also the matter of Nashs huge contract. Hes signed through the 2017-18 season at a 7.8 million salary cap hit, and the Sharks already have more than 54 million committed to 14 players next season according to CapGeek.com. The salary cap will probably stay right around the 63-65 million mark next season.
They could fit Nash under the cap this year even if they kept Pavelski and his 4 million salary, but would have to shed some serious dollars next year.
As for draft picks, the Sharks have a first and second round pick, after trading their other second round pick for Dominic Moore. After that, they don't have a third or fourth round pick, and their prospect pool is already viewed as somewhat thin (in fact, the website Hockeysfuture.com has them ranked dead last).
So, where does Nash end up? Smart money right now says the Los Angeles Kings, who can offer goalie Jonathan Bernier and are desperately in need of scoring. The Boston Bruins have Tuukka Rask, while Vancouver Canucks have Cory Schneider, all of whom would have be part of the deal.
Or, maybe Nash stays put in Columbus. Theres no urgency for the Blue Jackets to make the deal, and a trade at the NHL draft in June may give them a better chance to get maximum value as more teams would likely be interested. The Blue Jackets have a number of other commodities on the market like Jeff Carter, R.J. Umberger and Antoine Vermette, and they may want to see what they can get for those players while waiting to deal Nash.
If the Sharks have an abbreviated playoff run, though, that could make a major trade with the Blue Jackets a possibility should Nash still be there. Wilson showed last summer hes not afraid to make big time moves to try to try and get his team over the hump, and knows the window is closing for a core group that includes an aging Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle.
Right now, though, it just doesnt seem feasible.