By writing this post I’m also officially declaring my application for Scott Howson’s job in Columbus.
When you make a blockbuster trade in the NHL, there is just one golden rule: never trade quality for quantity. It is an absolute misnomer to think that two semi-talented players are equivalent to one very talented player. It’s a slippery slope if you keep thinking like that. Pretty soon you’re talking yourself into thinking that, somehow, a package involving Niklas Hagman and Matt Stajan is worth a Dion Phaneuf.
I think Rick Nash is an overrated and overpaid player, but that being said, the free agent and trade market was awfully weak this year. Whatever disadvantage of acquiring Nash’s monstrous contract is eliminated by the lack of options available (the only other being Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan) and Howson knew this, which is why he asked for some combination of Michael Del Zotto or Ryan McDonagh and Chris Kreider.
And what did months of waiting and holding out get Howson? Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon (who asked out of Calgary only because he wanted to play for the Rangers like his dad), Steven Delisle and a first round pick.
On an average day, Rick Nash is a 30-goal scorer, so getting a versatile third-liner, a potential second-line centre, a highly-regarded blueliner and a first round pick is a fairly decent haul. But if you compare it to what Howson was asking for back at the trade deadline and at the draft, this is awful.
Did Howson back himself into a corner? Not really – I think as the summer went on, and especially after Zach Parise had inked with the Wild, it worked in the Jackets’ favour. But we’re slowly learning that this isn’t the case, that the offer accepted by Howson was inferior to the one that was proposed at the deadline.
How is this possible? Did Howson overvalue his own player and the market that badly? He had the single biggest trade chip in the league yet somehow managed to devalue it by waiting far, far too long. The other 29 teams in the league called Howson’s bluff and Howson ended up getting a package which barely allows him to tuck his tail in between his legs.
It’s amazing that Howson continues to believe that, after dealing his franchise player and captain, the Jackets can be a playoff team. His master plan was de-railed when he got a less-than-enthused Jeff Carter and oft-injured James Wisniewski, but trading Nash should give the franchise the indication that they should start a new re-build now.
There’s pressure to win in the NHL level, but the Jackets are no closer to that goal since the club’s inception in 2000, so I fail to see the difference between starting fresh then or now. Dubinsky and Anisimov are help-now pieces, but I don’t think their acquisition makes the team any better, and if so, only marginally, and not enough to climb out of 15th in the West.
Erixon and the first rounder (which brings Columbus’ 2013 first round pick total to three) are pieces for the future, which Columbus desperately needs. Why didn’t Columbus ask for more? Why not tell the Rangers to keep Anisimov, given the Jackets’ poor history with Russian players and the fact they already have Derick Brassard, Mark Letestu and Ryan Johansen down the middle, and ask for another prospect instead? What about JT Miller, who has impressed in his first year with Plymouth? What about Dylan McIlrath, to add some competitive edge to a shallow blueline down the road? If the Jackets were so intent on getting Ryan McDonagh, why not go for his clone, the Rangers’ No. 1 pick Brady Skjei? These questions dog me when I think about this trade.
Early speculation has Nash lining up alongside Brad Richards. While that’s the obvious duo to put together, what do you do with a healthy Marian Gaborik when he comes back? There won’t be enough pucks to go around with a Nash-Richards-Gaborik top line, and the Rangers are better off splitting up their two snipers. The Rangers signed Richards with the idea that he’d play alongside Gaborik, but there were numerous times last year where they didn’t line up together or just didn’t seem to mesh well in certain moments.
The Atlantic Division is going to be a helluva fight this year. Rick Nash gives the Rangers more offensive firepower, and even though they lost some depth Chris Kreider is entering his first NHL season. This probably means that Philadelphia will really be hoping Nashville doesn’t match their offer sheet for Shea Weber, and the Pens will have a healthy Sidney Crosby to start the season. The Jackets, of course, will continue to be the cannon fodder of the Western Conference. (Honestly, the Central Division has been decimated this year.)
At the end of the day, and to be fair, Howson did the most he could with a pretty awful situation. Nash wasn’t willing to stay with the team and had limited Howson’s options to six teams. Did Ottawa get a fair return for Dany Heatley? Of course not, but it’s not like Bryan Murray held all the cards in that deal. It’s the same scenario with Nash and the Jackets, and I wonder if the reports that Howson was looking for McDonagh/Kreider/Del Zotto/Stepan really hurt his bargaining position.
But the idea of holding out on a trade is to create some frenzy in the market, to hopefully drive up the price between multiple buyers. Somehow, Scott Howson managed to do the opposite. Actually, it shouldn’t be that surprising. But hey, when Howson eventually gets fired, maybe he can take pot shots at his former team like Doug MacLean, who obviously did such a bang-up job during his tenure.