Now that Rick Nash has been delivered to the Bruins ahead of the NHL trade deadline as their “go for it” move for this season, it begs one simple question. How much will the 33-year-old Nash impact the Bruins positively or negatively while clearly in the back nine of his NHL career, and also a big time player that’s at times underwhelmed during the postseason in the past?
Some of the numbers are tough to ignore whether it’s failing to crack 40 points in each of the last two seasons with the Rangers, or a player that’s managed only 15 goals and 41 points in close to a full regular seasons’ worth of 77 career playoff games.
But a closer look at the numbers reveal a player that’s been much better in the Stanley Cup playoffs in recent seasons with the Rangers (10 goals and 23 points in his last three playoff runs), and there is something to consider with a laid back personality like Nash. Perhaps there is a parallel to be drawn to Pittsburgh acquiring a similar All-Star performer in Phil Kessel that never seemed to be everything that his former teams wanted him to be.
Being the third or fourth banana with the Penguins really lifted a burden off Kessel’s shoulders to be “the guy”, and unlocked his game to the point where he’s been an extremely important contributor to their Cup teams. Could a similar setup be beneficial to Nash where he doesn’t need to be a player carrying the Bruins on his sturdy 6-foot-4, 212-pound shoulders, but simply needs to go out produce and simply be another piece to the Black and Gold puzzle?
It’s a scenario the Bruins are banking on while teaming up the big-bodied Nash with a skilled, playmaking center in David Krejci that’s traditionally fared very well with power forward-types like Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and Jarome Iginla.
“I just think that Rick Nash brings a bit of a different dynamic to that line in terms of puck protection and the ability to get to the hard areas in a [part of the] season where it gets even more difficult to get there,” said Don Sweeney. “Hopefully David will have some juice as a result of this, and that line will find a way to score a few more goals. And more importantly play well defensively, which is something that Rick has done in the past.”
They certainly gave up a full package of assets for Nash with a 2018 first round pick, prospect Ryan Lindgren, Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey and a 2019 seventh round pick, but there should be absolutely nobody believing the big-bodied, dynamic Nash isn’t a serious playoff upgrade over a speedy, skilled finesse player in Ryan Spooner.
Scanning some of the prices to acquire rental players on Monday’s deadline day, Bruins fans should be more than okay with the price Don Sweeney paid for the premium power forward rental player that’s on the market. There isn’t a single asset that the Bruins will truly miss this season whether it’s the late first round pick, a solid character, limited upside prospect in Lindgren, a bad contract in Beleskey or a productive, albeit redundant player in Spooner given the young, speedy and skilled wingers flowing through the Bruins system.
Nash will also be an upgrade along the walls and in the defensive zone as well, things that take on much greater in the heat of the battle during the playoffs.
When you can acquire a potential difference-maker like Nash at the deadline for a collection of pieces that don’t really take anything from the NHL team, you make that trade every single time if you’re an NHL general manager. And you don’t look back or grumble about dealing away first round picks or second tier prospects when this season’s Bruins team has shown they might have a legitimate shot at a deep playoff run.
That’s certainly what Don Sweeney believes given both his words and his actions.
“We hope that he’s going to be the impact player that he has been. We’ve identified that [him] playing on that second line with David would be a boost to our hockey club. We need it to be,” said Don Sweeney. “Our players have made a push, and we wanted to inch that along if we could and reward them in a way.”
Certainly Krejci himself knows what the acquisition of Nash means to the Bruins as a team this season, and what it means to him and his line specifically.
“There’s no secret about it. We want to make a run and we have a good team,” said Krejci, who set Nash up for a couple of very good scoring chances to no avail in the loss to Buffalo on Sunday. “If you go into the season with low expectations, then there is no point in playing the hockey. I feel like we have a good team, and we want to go as deep as we can. A trade like this obviously makes us better. It’s a sad day losing [Ryan Spooner]. He’s a great guy and a great player, but at the same time [management] needs to do what’s best for the team.
“[Nash] is a great player. He’s got size, he’s got speed and he’s got a great shot. He works hard and plays at both ends of the ice. I’m obviously excited to play with him. He puts the puck the net pretty often every year and he’s been pretty consistent. My job is to get him the puck and that’s it.”
Best of all Nash doesn’t have to be the big goal-scoring sniper for the Bruins with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak already filling that category nicely. He doesn’t have to be their best player on a nightly basis because Patrice Bergeron already has that covered this season, in past season and in seasons to be named later. He doesn’t even have to be the lone, big-bodied power forward as David Backes is right there with Nash to throw their collective weight around at a time in the hockey season when that style pays dividends.
Nash simply has to come in and be a good compliment to what the Bruins already have going on rather than being “the man” as he’s been in both Columbus and New York in the past. That could make all the different for a laid-back hockey player that’s never really been put in this kind of position before in his All-Star career.