Rick Nash won’t be a checking line winger anytime soon, but on the first day of the rest of his NHL life, Nash espoused the Rangers’ party line.
“Any role that they ask me to play, or want me to play, I’ll try to do my best with that,” Nash said during a press conference at the Rangers’ training facility in Greenburgh Wednesday afternoon.
The Rangers acquired Nash in a blockbuster trade with Columbus Monday afternoon that ended a nearly five-month saga.
The Rangers sent Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and the Rangers’ first-round draft pick next year to Columbus for Nash, who owns every meaningful statistical record in Blue Jackets history.
“It is very exciting. It’ll be fun to come to training camp and see what [line] combinations [head coach John Tortorella] goes with,” Nash said during the half-hour long scrum at his stall. “I looked at the roster. It’s amazing. You can fit anyone in at any spot and it’d be fun to play with them.”
Nash is the centerpiece of general manager Glen Sather’s tweaking of the reigning Eastern Conference regular season champions. The Rangers brought in Arron Asham, Taylor Pyatt, Jeff Halpern and Micheal Haley to bring depth to the forward corps, and the team is still $13.391 million under the cap ceiling.
The possibility exists that the Rangers will use some of that money on Shane Doan, although defensemen Michael Del Zotto and Anton Stralman are restricted free agents, and money has to be set aside for Ryan McDonagh, Michael Sauer, Ryan Callahan, Henrik Lundqvist, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Brian Boyle and Marian Gaborik, all of whose current contracts will expire in the next two years.
Nash had veto power over any deal Columbus general manager Scott Howson made because the winger had submitted a list of teams where he would accept a trade, coupled with the no-movement clause in his contract. While he did not expressly state that he did not want to go to a team that would not have high-end players to play with, it was important to Nash that a potential destination give him the opportunity to win.
“I felt like I wanted to go to a team that could compete for a great record and could be one of the best teams in the league,” Nash said. “That’s the situation that I wanted to put myself in.”
With Gaborik slated to miss the first month of the season as he recuperates from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder, it seems likely that Nash will start the season on Brad Richards’ wing. Nash has played both left wing and right wing in his career.
“I think it is a big, fast team with some of the wingers — guys like [Mike] Rupp and [Brian] Boyle — they can kind of do it all, play fast, and I think I fit into that,” Nash said. “This is a world class team and [Richards] is a top centerman on any team in the league. It’s exciting.”
Nash confirmed that he spoke with Howson in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline last February. At that meeting, Nash said Howson reported to him that the Blue Jackets were going to rebuild the franchise. In response, Nash offered that Howson use him to acquire assets.
Howson was unable to procure the kind of return for Nash at the deadline that the executive was demanding.
“I was disappointed,” Nash said about not being moved at the deadline before growing philosophical about the business of hockey. “You look at huge deals and sometimes they get done in a day and sometimes it takes months. I think it was a pretty big trade for both organizations and it had to get done right. I respect that.
“I always wanted to get it done but I wanted to get it done in the right way,” Nash said about the trade talks continuing into the off-season. “I wanted to play somewhere where I wanted to be and my No. 1 priority was to be here. I’m just happy it worked out and if I had to wait all summer to come here, then I would have.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman for more offseason news.