DALLAS — Rick Nash was expecting it, but that didn’t make it any easier when it finally became a reality.
Nash was asked by general manager Jeff Gorton to submit his list of 18 teams he would not accept a trade to, meaning there are 12 remaining that Gorton can deal with in the lead-up to the Feb. 26 deadline. The 33-year-old Nash is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer as his eight-year, $62.4 million deal expires.
Maybe never quite living up to the $7.8 million annual salary-cap hit, Nash always had huge respect inside the locker room and around the league. Now it’s up to Gorton to see what he can get in return as his team prepares for a retooling.
“It’s disappointing, it sucks,” Nash said before his (current) team’s game against the Stars on Monday night. “I love being a Ranger, love being in New York. It’s just the things that happen when your team doesn’t win and they have to make business decisions. It’s really disappointing.”
There is also a human element to this equation, as Nash has had two children with wife Jessica since coming to the Rangers in the blockbuster trade with the Blue Jackets during the summer of 2012. His oldest is 3-year-old son McLaren, and Nash doesn’t know how he might break the news to him about a trade.
“I have no idea how I’m going to explain to my son that he can’t cheer for the Rangers. That definitely went through my head,” Nash said. “Every time he sees a goal, he starts singing the song. It’s tough, but it’s the reality. It’s the business side of it. When you go through certain things of where you could end up, you definitely think about your family and your kids and the best situation to win. I mean, it’s tough.”
Nash had been holding onto a sliver of hope that this might not happen, and he might be able to finish out the season with the Rangers. But from Gorton’s perspective, that is likely unfeasible.
“Sometimes these things don’t happen and we can move on and everything will be great — I can stay a Ranger, live in New York and it’s the best,” Nash said. “I haven’t been to that thought process just yet.”
Gorton will certainly be looking for a first-round pick in exchange for Nash, who has 15 goals and 25 points in 52 games this season. The No. 1-overall pick in 2002 has 289 career goals in 674 regular-season games, with 142 goals coming in 367 games as a Ranger. He has scored more than 30 in eight of his first 14 seasons, and more than 40 three times.
He has excelled as a defensive forward in recent years, but never shied away from the fact that he knew his job was to score more than he was. He also had an idea this was coming, with the Rangers having gone 6-10-2 over their previous 18.
“You would kind of be stupid not to, really,” Nash said. “When you lose games, things are going to change. I’ve been on the other end of this a lot of times, seen guys go through it. Now it’s my turn. It’s not a fun feeling, but you understand the business situation.”
So for now, Nash said he is going to “play for the guys in the room. I’ve been here for six years now and these guys mean a lot to me. You have to be a professional about it. You have to understand this is a business, but you have to show up, you have to put your work boots on and play for the guys in this room, play for the Rangers and play for the city.”
And on his list are teams that he thinks have a chance to win the Stanley Cup this season. Thinking about that list and actually being asked to compile it are two very different things.
“When I got asked I was definitely in shock at first. You expect it’s going to happen, but you don’t know the feeling until it actually happens when they ask you to submit a list,” Nash said. “My number one goal is to win a Cup with the Rangers and have a successful season with the Rangers. It’s unfortunate, but the business side of it.”
Forward Jimmy Vesey did sustain a concussion when he also was hit in the head on Saturday, a play that earned Nashville forward Filip Forsberg a three-game suspension. Vesey was going through concussion protocol and was with the team in Dallas, going through a light workout on Monday morning.
Set to come into the lineup up front was recent call-up Vinni Lettieri, while Steven Kampfer was set to replace Staal on the back end. Henrik Lundqvist was set to get his third start in a row.