New York Rangers: Rick Nash is worth a call as camp draws near

OTTAWA, ON - FEBRUARY 17: Rick Nash #61 of the New York Rangers skates against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on February 17, 2018 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
OTTAWA, ON - FEBRUARY 17: Rick Nash #61 of the New York Rangers skates against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on February 17, 2018 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /
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OTTAWA, ON – FEBRUARY 17: Rick Nash #61 of the New York Rangers skates against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on February 17, 2018 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
OTTAWA, ON – FEBRUARY 17: Rick Nash #61 of the New York Rangers skates against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on February 17, 2018 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) /

The New York Rangers would be foolish to not even ask if unrestricted free agent forward Rick Nash wants to try and play hockey this upcoming season.

For all intents and purposes the 2018-2019 New York Rangers are a team playing with house money. There is no reasonable expectation for a postseason run barring a miracle. The young team should at the very least make for a bad and exciting team. Meaning that although the team will create lots of offensive chances, they will also give up a lot of chances.

However, outside of the team’s horrendous defensive personnel, the Rangers have a lack of quality forward depth. Sure, the Rangers have a handful of really good players, but no one that is truly great. There is also the very real issue of having inexperienced personnel on the penalty kill for a majority of the season. If one of the young forwards has to learn on the fly, so be it.

But, there is one thing the Rangers front office should consider for this upcoming season. Although Rick Nash elected to forgo the unrestricted free agency window that began on July 1, he has yet to formally announce his retirement. Now, as a player with a substantial track record of concussions, it is totally in Nash’s court and if he has any doubts, he should retire.

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However, if Nash feels as if he can return to the NHL for this upcoming season, he can make a positive impact on a young Rangers team.

Track record

To say that Nash’s tenure with the Rangers was up for debate is a gross understatement. The two camps splintered off into two directly conflicting groups. Either Nash was a key contributor that didn’t light up the stat sheet but through his underlying play created lots of chances, or Nash was an overpaid bum who failed to live up to the hype as an elite goal scorer.

While I personally think both can be true, look at the underlying numbers, Nash scored the third most goals per 60 minutes of ice time of any player in the NHL since the 2013 lockout shortened season. Over that stretch of time Nash averaged 1.21 goals per 60, the only two players that produced at a higher clip were Auston Matthews and Brock Boeser who obviously have far smaller sample sizes.

Even at age 34 this past season, Nash still managed to have a solid impact. In 60 games with the Rangers, the forward posted 28 points and managed to squeak out a 50.2 Corsi for percentage, meaning that when Nash was on the ice, the Rangers generated 50.2% of the shots on goal. The point being that there is definitely a place for a 35 year old Nash in the NHL.

The question

Ultimately, there is a question of the player’s health which should come before anything else. Nash’s career earnings top $100 million, a figure in the upper echelon of NHL players. From the very beginning when Nash was drafted number one overall in the 2002 entry draft, he made a great impact.

The highlight real goals Nash scored as a young sniper rank amongst the most memorable in league history.

The level of skill required to deke between two defenders and then around the goaltender is unreal. As a Ranger, Nash bulked up and played a more well rounded and two way game. Weirdly, Nash never played substantial time on the Ranger power play during his time with the team. It is not hard to imagine Nash posting slightly more impressive offensive numbers if he had time on the man advantage.

There are other factors at play for Nash than money at this point, if he were to return to the league, it’d be very well knowing another concussion could be the end. There is no shame in knowing when to walk away from the game, hockey is a brutal and grueling career. But, Nash started his family as a member of the Rangers, both of his children have only ever really known New York.

Watching Nash interact with his children and him speaking about his kid’s affinity for the organization could convince him to suit up for one more season. Being that cap space is no issue, the Rangers could afford to give Nash pretty much whatever he wanted on a one year deal.

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The Rangers just need to call and gauge his interest in one more year. If Nash is retired, so be it, but adding a sage veteran of his caliber to a young room could go a long way. The impact veterans have on young guys cannot be overstated. One interaction is all it takes for a young guy to do something a certain way for the rest of his career.