New York Rangers: Is Rick Nash worth his contract?

Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports /

The New York Rangers have been in a cap crunch for the past few seasons. The team’s second highest earner, Rick Nash, has been under heavy scrutiny for his lack of scoring in recent seasons, especially with his high cap hit. His play, compared to others making similar salaries, justifies his cap hit.

Rick Nash carries a hefty cap hit, totaling at $7.8 million against the cap every season. This is not only high (second highest, to be exact) on the Rangers, but also in the entire NHL. Nash’s cap charge comes in at sixteenth highest in the entire league.

Nash has had productive seasons in the past, at one point scoring 42 goals in one year for the Rangers. However, his most recent seasons have both been marred by injury. He has played in less than 70 regular season games in the last two seasons.

In both injury shortened seasons, Nash’s production has also suffered. And that doesn’t even get into his mediocre playoff performances. However, from a few different perspectives, Nash’s high cap hit is justified by his play.

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Comparison to Others with Similar Cap Hits

Obviously Nash isn’t the only player in the NHL with a massive cap charge. And it wouldn’t exactly make sense to compare his production to some of his younger constituents, so this will be sticking to players in the 30 to 33-year-old range. These other players are Zach Parise, Jason Spezza, and Ryan Getzlaf.

Zach Parise is signed at $7.59 million against the cap, and is in a similar situation to Nash. Parise has been unable to stay healthy and produce at his highest level since signing his current deal with the Minnesota Wild. This past season, the 32-year-old winger played in two more games than Nash, scoring four more points, all of which were assists.

Jason Spezza plays on a $7.5 million cap hit and in a completely different style. While playing one less game than Nash, Spezza produced an extra 12 points. However, Spezza spends much of his play time with some of the best scorers in the game, be that Tyler Seguin or Jamie Benn, and plays a much bigger offensive role on his team.

Ryan Getzlaf carries a $8.25 million cap hit, slightly more than Nash’s, but completely out performs him. Even at 32, the same age as Nash, Getzlaf remains one of the NHL’s premier forwards. In only 7 more games, Getzlaf scored 35 more points than Nash.

Nash’s Importance to the Rangers

Even though Nash’s offense has dried up, he is immensely important to the Rangers in every situation. He plays on the first or second line 5 on 5, adding a physical presence to any line. His size and defensive prowess lend to the penalty kill, as well.

Nash is also a mainstay on the Rangers’ penalty killing units. In this situation, his range allows him to work the point with efficiency. He also can work the boards and middle of the ice, using his size advantage over most other players in the NHL.

It isn’t forgotten that Nash can be an offensive force, as he regularly appears on the power play, too. Nash’s diverse skill set allows him to be used in every situation, making him invaluable to the Rangers’ current roster even at his massive cap hit.

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Although Nash’s offense doesn’t justify his cap hit, his diverse role in every situation does. The Rangers would have a tough time replacing his production in the defensive end and on the penalty kill. However, Nash’s contract simply doesn’t work for the Rangers.

The team has invested so much of its cap in a few individuals, namely Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Dan Girardi, and Marc Staal, that one or more of them will have to become cap casualties for the team to progress and get better. Sadly, it is likely that Nash will be one of possibly two or three of these casualties.