Risky business: Trading for Rick Nash

Between cap hit, expected performance decline, acquiring Columbus star is a gamble

Updated: February 20, 2012, 3:51 PM ET
By Neil Greenberg | ESPN Insider
Rick NashGreg Bartram/US PresswireHistory shows that most wings over age 28, like Rick Nash will be next season, decline steadily.

Over the next few days a select number of general managers will ask themselves the same question: Should I trade for Rick Nash?

On paper, the Columbus Blue Jackets power forward is the best top-six forward available at the trade deadline, having averaged over 30 goals per season since breaking into the league in 2002. Over the last five seasons, Nash ranks sixth overall in goals with 161, behind only Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jarome Iginla, Corey Perry and Dany Heatley.

It is also easy to dismiss his struggles this season as a result of the poor linemates he's saddled with in Columbus, where he is on pace for 26 goals, 57 points and a minus-32 rating, all of which would be his lowest totals in at least five years.

However, teams should be interested less in what the five-time All-Star has already done and more in what he is likely to do in the remaining years of his contract, which comes out to a $7.8 million cap hit in each of the next six years. If they were, no team would consider making the deal. In the long term, it is extremely unlikely that Nash will deserve that kind of salary cap commitment and could even become a burden on any team that acquires him.

Neil Greenberg is ESPN Insider's NHL analytics expert. His columns have appeared on the Washington Post website, and he is a regular guest on Sirius XM NHL Radio.