TORONTO – It sounds like the Boston Bruins are on the verge of a fairly substantial trade if they can iron out some of the details both big and small.
According to multiple reports and sources, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney is closing in on a trade for New York Rangers winger Rick Nash ahead of Monday afternoon’s trade deadline. The 33-year-old Nash has 18 goals and 28 points in 60 games this season for the Blueshirts, and really has been in decline over the last couple of years in New York since scoring 42 goals and 69 points back in the 2014-15 season.
Still, Nash has quite the resume as the first overall pick in the 2002 NHL Draft and a guy that’s scored over 400 goals and nearly 800 points in his 14-year NHL career while starring for the Columbus Blue Jackets and Rangers during that time. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder would bring the size, heaviness and experience factor that the Bruins have been looking to add to their wing ahead of the stretch run and playoffs, and certainly could be energized down the stretch while potentially playing a second line role with a center like David Krejci.
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Don Sweeney indicated prior to the reports surfacing that the Bruins could be more invested into the rental market this season, given their strong campaign, than they originally thought they’d be when the season started.
“We’d like to think that the group can continue on along the path that they’re on, but if you can add to it and help it…the rental market depends on what you’re going to give up, and what that impact of that player is necessarily going to be and how they’re going to fit into the group,” said Sweeney. “The chemistry piece is an important piece in and around the trade deadline, so that’s something we have to be cognizant of.”
There are, however, a couple of issues for the Bruins and Rangers to work out before it’s a done deal. One is the massive cap hit for Nash that would still be well over $3 million even if the Rangers agree to eat half of his remaining contract, and that would leave the Bruins to need to clear some space with a corresponding deal elsewhere. There’s also the matter of ponying up assets in exchange for Nash, who it’s believed would cost the Bruins a first round pick and a solid prospect that is not yet on the NHL roster.
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That means the Bruins would able to avoid potentially dealing Brandon Carlo, Jake DeBrusk or Danton Heinen from their NHL roster, which it wasn’t expected they would need to move in a rental deal for Nash. But it does mean the Bruins likely would be parting with a blue chip prospect still in the development stage, whether it’s Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Jakub Zboril, Zach Senyshyn or even a college hockey prospect like Trent Frederic.
That’s a big price to pay from Boston’s future to be sure, but it would be done based on Nash being an impact player this season for a Bruins team that looks like they might have a pretty good postseason run in them.
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Two games in and the return of Marcus Smart has had the effect many predicted it would for Boston.
There may be other Celtics who score more points, tally more assists and snare a few more rebounds.
But the impact of Smart’s play on what truly matters – winning – is undeniable.
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His play was one of the keys to Boston’s 121-112 win at New York on Saturday night.
Smart came off the bench to score 11 points to go with five assists and three steals.
In his two games back, Smart is averaging 11.5 points, 5.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals while shooting 64.3 percent from the field.
Yes, it’s a small sample size for sure.
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More than anything, it serves as a reminder of how one of Smart’s greatest assets as a player is his ability to contribute in a multitude of ways.
“He just adds a lot of versatility to our offense and our defense,” Boston’s Kyrie Irving told NBC Sports Boston following Saturday’s game. “He has a high awareness on both ends. He’s able to create opportunities for all of us at both ends of the floor and we appreciate that.”
Certainly Smart is credited for being a good defender, and his play-making skills have improved dramatically in the last year or so.
But arguably Smart’s biggest contribution is that his play allows others around him, to focus on whatever it is that they do well, knowing that Smart has the ability to do both his job as well as provide help when needed.
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Boston’s defense struggled mightily before the break with teams scoring seemingly whenever they wanted to.
But in the last two games, Boston has looked more like the defensive unit that has been among the NBA’s best most of this season.
In the last two games, Boston’s defensive rating has been 104.5 which ranks 11th in the NBA during that span.
Several factors have played a role in Boston’s improved defense the last two games; among them being the return of Smart who missed 11 games after punching a picture frame last month that left him with 20 stitches.
“It’s the appreciation of Marcus Smart right there,” Irving said. “Implement him and him just putting his stamp and identity on our team as well. It just makes a lot of other guy’s job, easier. Because he covers up a lot of our mistakes as well as playing with unbelievable awareness at both ends of the floor. He understands spacing, he understands how the little things matter.”