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Rick Nash Traded to Bruins, as Atlantic Arms Race Begins

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A sign of things to come?

NHL: New York Rangers at Minnesota Wild Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

It’s reported the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers have finalized a deal that will send Rick Nash to Boston, with a first round pick and defense prospect Ryan Lindgren going to New York. As expected, New York is retaining 50% of Nash’s salary, the maximum allowable under the CBA, in order to facilitate the deal. New York also absorbed Matt Beleskey’s contract to grant Boston the cap space to make the trade, which presumably increased their return as well.

Other pieces are involved as well:

It appears Beleskey will also have 50% of his salary retained by Boston. He has two more years remaining on his deal (after this one) at $3.8 million, so that is something that will have implications for Boston beyond this season. Granted, they weren’t using him anyways, and were just eating his salary after waiving him earlier this season.

Impact on Boston

This makes Boston better, no doubt about it. As a team with arguably the most fearsome line in hockey and among the best defensive records in hockey, their one relative weakness was the solidity of their depth scoring. They were relying a lot on relatively unproven players like Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen, who have performed very well this season. However, neither has a track record of elite offense in their past, which is what they were producing this season, partially buoyed by on-ice shooting percentages.

Nash does have a record of elite offense. His superficial numbers have fallen recently, but Nash is still an excellent offensive player. He’s averaging 1.79 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five this season, which is production typical of an excellent second liner. That’s what he’ll be asked to be in Boston, and he’ll have the advantage of playing on a far better team than in New York.

This level of scoring isn’t new to Nash. Over the last three years he has been an elite five-on-five scorer in the league, at least on a per minute basis. He is very much in decline, but he started from being one of the best scorers in the league. He has a lot of room to fall while still being very useful.

Nash isn’t much of a play driver at this point in his career. He’s a relatively neutral player when it comes to his impact on shot attempts. However, he’s one of the few players who can sustain high on-ice shooting percentages, due to his own talent and his ability to generate dangerous shots when on the ice.

He’s a very good fit for Boston who don’t get crease shots that easily, especially when Bergeron and co. are not on the ice.

In short, Nash should fit in well on Boston’s second line, and give them an additional punch of secondary scoring. Many will criticize him for his career playoff struggles. I’m less convinced that they’re substantial, rather than the result of an unfortunate shooting percentage. Your mileage may vary.

As mentioned earlier, Beleskey is a cap dump who doesn’t have hockey ramifications here. Spooner is a 26 year old who tends to average around half a point per game, with mediocre relative shot impacts. He will be a RFA at the end of this season. This is where the trade starts to lose a bit of lustre for Boston. Nash is an upgrade on Spooner, but not a ridiculously huge upgrade, in my opinion.

Boston essentially paid a huge fee to do that, in giving up a first rounder, a solid prospect (who they drafted in the second round in the 2016 draft), Spooner, and a seventh, in addition to committing to not getting anything useful out of Beleskey.

According to CapFriendly, they cleared enough room in this deal to add another player, with a total cap hit of around $2 million.

As for Spooner, he might get flipped again, or he might be retained and re-signed this offseason. New York is a wild card right now, and the source of all our trade rumours. Keep them coming.