Rick Nash and the Vancouver Canucks: Not a Good Fit


Look at Vancouver. On the surface, the Canucks are a perfect match. Nash is the kind of player Vancouver would consider trading Cory Schneider for. Add Cody Hodgson, Chris Tanev, maybe another piece and voila, you’ve got what looks like a pretty fair trade.

This comes from CBC’s Elliotte Friedmann this morning in a column discussing the rumours regarding Rick Nash’s trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Yesterday, a report surfaced that the team would be willing to discuss a trade for their franchise captain, the only man you could possibly associate with the Blue Jackets. Is Vancouver, like Elliotte suggests, a possible landing spot?

Don’t think it’s going to happen. The Canucks are full of guys who’ve taken less money — Kevin Bieksa, Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler. Heck, the Sedins probably left about $15 million each on the table. It is the organization’s philosophy to reward their own, with newcomers like Dan Hamhuis understanding they will not break the bank.


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Elliotte used Vancouver as an example in order to demonstrate just how tough it is to make a deal in today’s NHL. There are so many “anchor contracts” that hurt a team’s salary cap structure. Add that to the fact that Columbus would be asking for so much in return, and Nash just doesn’t make sense for the Canucks. Is a package involving Schneider, Hodgson, Tanev and another piece (let’s assume a first round pick) a viable way for the Canucks to improve their hockey club? Absolutely not.

Rick Nash, now 27, is signed through 2018, or through his 33rd year. He also has a $7.8M cap hit that few teams could afford, and even fewer would be willing to take on in the first place, if they’re smart. Teams that don’t have a long-term contract weighing down their cap situation are few and far between, and they probably know by now how much better off they are for it. When you pay $7.8M to Rick Nash through the age of 33, you are in effect gambling that he is one of the best to ever play the sport.

Here is a list of players who, since the 2000-01 season, have churned out at least 30 goals and 60 points from their 28 to 33 year old seasons (a hat-tip to @67sound and Neil Greenberg for discussing this yesterday)

  1. Jarome Iginla (234 goals, 503 points)
  2. Jaromir Jagr (204 goals, 474 points)
  3. Marian Hossa (182 goals, 399 points)

This was compiled over at Hockey Reference.

With Nash, you’re gambling that he’s a generational talent. You know all the loopholes people talk about when discussing players? How a front-loaded deal will allow teams to acquire players for a lower cap-hit than they’re worth? Well for the most part we have yet to get into the back-end of some of those deals, where players like Rick Nash and Danny Briere and others age and fail to live up to their cap hit. You live by the loophole, you die by the loophole.

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If the Canucks decided to dispatch Schneider, Hodgson and Tanev for Rick Nash, they’re gambling that Nash would bring more value to the team than their top line wingers already do. Daniel Sedin’s cap hit is $6.1MM, for example, so, at a rate of about $1.4MM per win (by taking total league payroll and dividing it by the 1230 wins NHL teams are going to earn over the course of this season) you’re hoping that Nash can best Daniel Sedin by more than 7 goals. This would require a 43-goal season.

While we’re doing this, which players have scored 40 goals per season over their 28-to-30 stretch in their careers?

  1. Markus Naslund (123 goals, 278 points)
  2. Jarome Iginla (124 goals, 259 points)

People often forget just how good Markus Naslund was at the height of the West Coast Express years. He was a legitimate MVP candidate every year, and that’s the MINIMUM amount of production you’d need to get out of Rick Nash, and still have his contract be worth it! And that analysis doesn’t even factor in the opportunity cost of dealing the team’s three best young players.

As we’ve seen, the Mike Gillis era Canucks don’t operate like that. The Canucks would rather share the wealth across their lineup. The Sedins, Dan Hamhuis, Roberto Luongo: all these players took pay cuts to allow Vancouver to open up their chequebook across the second and third line. That allowed the team to retain the types of players who win hockey games.

If Daniel and Henrik had signed for the money they’d have been worth on the open market, well, the team wouldn’t have been able to afford to bring in a guy like Manny Malhotra, or would have to part with Jannik Hansen last offseason. Those are players who carry the defensive load for the team, and allow offensive superstars to shine. It means more room for mistakes, so a trade for a player like Keith Ballard doesn’t handicap the team, and it allows the team to take risks on mid-level guys like David Booth.

Vancouver already got its big moment out of Rick Nash. Gambling some of the team’s best assets on somebody who would need to play like a Hall of Famer to be close to being worth his deal goes against the team’s organizational philosophy.

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