New York Rangers must make decision on Rick Nash

Dec 15, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; New York Rangers left wing Rick Nash (61) in action during the game against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. The Rangers shut out the Stars 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 15, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; New York Rangers left wing Rick Nash (61) in action during the game against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. The Rangers shut out the Stars 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /
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The New York Rangers made a splash before the entry draft, trading Derek Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes. But another Ranger has long been the topic of trade rumors: Rick Nash.

The New York Rangers and General Manager Jeff Gorton are at the center of a whirlwind, attempting to rebuild on the fly. Gorton engineered a blockbuster trade for a top (but troubled) defensive prospect in Anthony DeAngelo and a top-10 pick. Going to Arizona was backup goalie Antti Raanta and first-line center Derek Stepan.

That’s a move with an eye to the future, to be sure, but it also leaves the team with questions. If they really want to rebuild, the Rangers will need to make a decision on Rick Nash.

With just one year remaining on his $7.8 million AAV contract, Nash has plenty of value. If the Rangers want to make one more push for the Stanley Cup with Henrik Lundqvist in net, Nash should stay. If not, he has trade value.

But which of those options is best?

Related Story: Rangers 2017 draft analysis

One last shot

With the departure of Stepan, the New York Rangers will absolutely need to make some moves if they hope to contend in 2018. Oscar Lindberg’s selection by Las Vegas has them two good centers short of what they’ll need.

But the Rangers don’t have many options. Matt Duchene and Alex Galchenyuk are available, but will cost a pretty penny. If the Rangers were going after one of them, logic would have been to flip that pick from Arizona as part of a package. Now, the Rangers are stuck.

If they do want to try for a trade, though, Rick Nash might be a piece to send. Though his production has decreased in recent seasons, Nash is only two years removed from a 40-goal campaign.

As a rare, two-way power forward, Nash is the kind of player the Canadiens would love. He could also go to Colorado and help mentor the youngsters as Sakic rebuilds.

But if the Rangers really want to contend, they should keep Nash. He’s an integral part of the penalty kill, which just took a huge hit between the losses of Stepan and Lindberg. Nash also seems to have kicked his post-season demons to the curb, with 10 goals and 13 assists in his last three playoff seasons.

Related Story: Stepan trade return DeAngelo is high-risk/high-reward

Just go for the rebuild

Despite the possibly bright outlook, Gorton’s moves before the 2017 draft point toward this being a true rebuild. If that’s the case, he should bite the bullet and trade Nash for futures. A return of a draft pick and a young prospect would be good, and the Rangers could go to the UFA ranks to find another winger. Giving someone like Patrick Marleau a two-year contract would work well for a rebuilding New York Rangers team.

The fact of the matter is, the Gorton’s moves don’t make much sense if he wants the Rangers to win a Cup for Lundqvist. They have tons of cap space, and trading Nash would open up more, but the prime forward pieces just aren’t there if that happens.

Replacing Stepan and Nash with players like Sam Gagner or Joe Thornton and Marleau won’t make the Rangers a better team. Even potentially re-signing Brendan Smith and signing UFA Kevin Shattenkirk won’t put that kind of roster over the top.

Next: Lindy Ruff hired as Rangers assistant coach

The decision must be made now: trade Nash and buy into the rebuild, or keep him and try for another run at the Stanley Cup for Henrik Lundqvist.