As I posted earlier today, the Flyers have a rich history of deadline shopping, often bringing in big names. Defensemen Nick Grossman and Pavel Kubina are the latest to join the team mid-season.
And yet, it appears the Flyers may not be done. Against all odds, rumors involving Columbus winger Rick Nash continue to build momentum. Trust me when I say the deal would be a huge mistake.
Some background: Nash is an elite forward, having scored 30 goals six times in the last seven seasons. The Blue Jackets are easily the worst team in the NHL. Flyers GM Paul Holmgren met with his Columbus counterpart Scott Howson on Saturday. Howson brought his top advisor to the meeting, and the Jackets have apparently had scouts at each of the Flyers' last two games.
I'm not one to dispute Nash's talent. And a Nash/Claude Giroux pairing would instantly be one of the most electric in the league. And yet here I am, with a desperate plea:
Don't do the Nash deal.
It's tempting to be suckered in by the prospect of a top scoring talent. But a Nash trade wouldn't get the Flyers any closer to the Stanley Cup, and it would significantly compromise the team's depth and flexibility moving forward.
Let's start with everyone's favorite topic: Numbers! After the Grossman and Kubina deals, the Flyers are right up against the cap. For all intents and purposes, they have no significant cap room.
Nash carries a hefty $7.8 million annual cap hit on a contract that runs through the 2017-18 season, so the Flyers would need not only to deal good enough players to acquire Nash, they'd also have to unload nearly $8 million in contracts.
Untouchables (either because the Flyers wouldn't trade them or the Blue Jackets wouldn't be interested) probably include Claude Giroux, Jaromir Jagr, Danny Briere, Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen, Matt Carle, Jakub Voracek, and, very unfortunately, Ilya Bryzgalov. I'm taking age into consideration here, as well as remaining contract length, assuming that the Jackets would want young, talented players that they can control long-term as part of a rebuilding effort.
****Sidebar: If they Flyers ever manage to deal Bryzgalov for a player of consequence, it's safe to assume that Holmgren has deeply incriminating photos of the opposing team's general manager.
It's also unlikely that the Jackets would be interested in Braydon Coburn or Andrej Meszaros, since they have significant money tied up in the defensive end already and a severe dearth of forwards.
That leaves the following players: Scott Hartnell, Sean Couturier, Matt Read, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, James van Riemsdyk and Sergei Bobrovsky.
Hartnell is an interesting case. He's enjoying a career year and costs $4.8 million against the cap. He's only under contract through next season, but if any deal is going to be done, he may need to be included for salary cap purposes. Nash, of course, would instantly replace Hartnell on the top line. A fan favorite, it would be tough to see Hartnell leave town, but palatable given the return.
It's almost certain that Columbus would want either Couturier or Schenn in return, given their status as some of the top young players in the entire NHL. The Flyers would be absolute fools to deal either one. My unhealthy obsession with Couturier is coming into play here, but when you've got forwards like that who will remain under team control for the next four-plus years, you hang onto them. Each has flashed immense ability thus far, and it would be a huge mistake to give up on either.
I'm probably a bigger James van Riemsdyk fan than most, but he and his cap number could be dealt. Unfortunately, this year, that number is only around $1.6 million. Sergei Bobrovsky and Wayne Simmonds check in at similar numbers. Matt Read is earning just $900,000.
So, in all likelihood, it's going to cost Hartnell and Couturier or Schenn ($3.1 million), as well as probably a third piece, likely JVR, to get this deal done. Things get more complicated if the Jackets look to unload their underachieving goaltender, Steve Mason, and his $2.9 million cap number.
Maybe you look at that and say, hey, that's not so bad. Unfortunately, it doesn't fix what ails the Flyers.
Remember, this is a team with no goaltending whatsoever. They also can't count on Chris Pronger coming back, and will have three of their six starting defensemen (Grossman, Kubina, and Carle) leaving once the season ends. Eric Gustafsson and Marc-Andre Bourdon can probably fill two of those holes, but Kimmo Timonen's deal expires after next season.
By all accounts, this team's primary concern within 18 months is going to be keeping the puck out of its own net. Bringing in Nash and his enormous contract would limit the Flyers' ability to make moves to improve the defensive side of the puck. On the other hand, watching Schenn and Couturier blossom as extremely cheap but effective forwards will only improve the offense in the future.
Maybe I'm being too much of a downer. Maybe the allure of a bona fide superstar like Nash is worth the hefty price the Flyers would have to pay. But this kind of deal screams "all in" to me, when Holmgren's offseason moves all seemed geared toward the future.
Even with Nash, this team isn't properly constructed to win a Stanley Cup--not with Bryz between the pipes and holes along the blue line. There's no sense in making a blockbuster deal now and sacrificing cap flexibility and future top-flight players like Couturier and Schenn.