A year has passed since the Columbus Blue Jackets dealt their superstar to the New York Rangers. Rick Nash was traded to the Rangers for Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon and a 1st-round draft pick that was used to select Kerby Rychel.
The Blue Jackets lost their superstar. The player who drove that team’s success for 9 seasons. At the time the deal was made, it looked like an official rebuild was finally in order for the Blue Jackets and the outlook for the next few seasons was very bleak.
Many were reluctant to give Scott Howson the benefit of the doubt when the trade was officially made.
However, the players they received in return helped to stabilize the assets that were already there and removing Rick Nash from the equation gave the rest of the roster a chance to grow and fill roles that were left open.
Anisimov jumped into the role of top-line center. His play was very solid and always matched up well against any oppositions top line. Dubinsky’s transition into a 2nd line center and his solid two-way play has made him a candidate for the captain of the Blue Jackets next season. Together these two added intensity and speed to the lineup. They also gave Head Coach Todd Richards the ability to mix up the lines in the middle of a game, if necessary.
Even though it’s difficult to say that any players had breakout years on offense for Columbus, Cam Atkinson, Matt Calvert, Mark Letestu and Ryan Johansen had their best years, statistically, which helped to fill the holes in the offense that Nash had previously filled.
The Rangers lost that depth down the middle but they acquired the best player in the deal. Nevertheless, it left John Tortorella in a position that many Rangers’ coaches before him have found themselves in, too much elite talent and not enough depth. The lack of depth being a fact that he was not shy in admitting this past season.
Therefore, with depth being an issue, another deal was made at the trade deadline which sent Marian Gaborik to the Blue Jackets. The player the Rangers received who had an immediate impact was center Derick Brassard, who stepped in and scored 11 points (5 G, 6 A) in 13 games with New York.
The future for both of these clubs has culminated around the Rick Nash trade. Columbus was able to match up four lines against any team that they played against and established it’s own identity as a team that is very hard-working and hungry on the puck. While the Rangers have their perennial superstar that is essential in their media market.
Up to this point, it would be an easy argument to call the Blue Jackets the winners of the Rick Nash trade. Columbus was the hottest team in the final two months of the season and with their recent success they were able to land Nathan Horton in free agency. They also used the 1st-round draft pick on Kerby Rychel, who could develop into the type of player Nash is. Meanwhile, the Rangers slipped from 1st in the Eastern Conference to 6th and were eliminated by the Bruins in 5 games in the 2nd round of the playoffs during a season that had projected New York to win the cup by many around the league.
It’s still too early to call a clear winner. The one thing we do know is that Columbus is finally on the right track and their future is beginning to look very promising.