With trade talks consistently atop the Blue Jackets discussion list, it came as no surprise to me yesterday when Nash and Carter became a heated debate among Blue Jackets fans on twitter. Not necessarily where they would be traded to, but IF a trade were to occur (and it's obviously a big IF with Howson repeatedly suggesting Nash will not move), who would be the better option for Columbus to deal. There are some obvious pros and cons to dealing both players, but I want to take a bit of time to consider the two being dealt and the overall impact to the team and the fan base.
First and most simplistic of the two, consider their contracts. Nash is currently signed to an 8 year deal that averages his cap hit at 7.8 million per year. He will become a UFA at the age of 34. Carter is signed to an 11 year deal that averages his cap hit at 5.25 million per year. He will become a UFA at the age of 37. The age difference is just under one year, with Nash born in June of 84, and Carter born in January of 85. The cap hit difference in the two is 2,527,273 (or for the sake of discussion ease, 2.5 million).
Their current 2011/2012 statistics are the following:
As you can see, Nash has the points lead, but the gap is closed quite a bit in the points per game lead, with only 0.09 separating the two players. Carter has a 0.05 advantage in goals per game and betters Nash in shooting percentage at a difference of 2.6%. Nash has a clear edge in assists with 8 more than Carter, but is also -11 worse in plus/minus. To take their current output a bit further, check out this piece by the Coach breaking down their current goal output and whether they are meeting their projected goal totals based on previous years.
Next, and probably the most delicate of the discussion; Nash is the face of the franchise. He has been 'the' top tier player for Columbus for almost a decade and has said all the right things. Even recently, when asked about his NTC and the potential to be moved, he admitted that he would not stop a trade from happening if it was in the best interest of the team. People certainly can't ignore his ability to say the right things (whether it's absolutely factual or not -- I am sure it probably is) but they have to recognize exactly what he has said in this case. If moving him brings back the foundation for long term success for the Blue Jackets, it is something that should be seriously considered.
Another factor that may not be a front runner in the discussions, is that trading Nash would immediately resolve the complaint of many fans that he ought not to be captain. While you hate to see a player have the "C" removed from their jersey, a trade would negate any potential awkwardness and would give the players an opportunity to play big to take on the role. Again, I do not think this should be a defining factor in selecting Nash for a trade, but it would certainly benefit the team if Nash is in fact not the guy they need to be leading them.
That all leads me to the pinnacle of what swayed my opinion. Which of these two players will generate the most return? Carter could potentially be seen as damaged goods by 20-25 GMs based on the fact that he was already moved once this year. It seems that type of player turnover puts a red flag on talent, and I can't help but think that it would concern a number of potential trading partners. Secondary to that, when you consider Nash's trade value and overall appeal from a trading perspective, would dealing Nash for the guys it took to get Carter (Voracek, early'ish 1st round pick) really satisfy you? My answer is no, and I feel like most would agree. Nash has the edge big time in trade value, and would more than likely have the Jackets bringing back a number of quality prospects, if not top tier developing players that will immediately impact the Blue Jackets success.
It will be interesting to see if Howson will pursue additional offensive talent or focus on resolving the defensive lack of a top 1/2 defenseman if he does indeed deal one of Carter or Nash. Ideally, I would like to see him package Nash with a defenseman like Tyutin (who I feel isn't and probably won't live up to his contract extension due to kick in next year) in order to acquire a top tier defenseman along with a top six forward. This move would resolve the obvious defensive problems in Columbus, while opening the top line to a player like Yakupov (who could potentially come to Columbus in the draft) in a year or two after he develops a bit. This does leave a hole in the top line, but with players like Johansen and potentially a top three prospect coming through the pipeline, they are in a decent position to replace top line talent within the next couple years. Further, with players like Vermette, Brassard, Umberger, Prospal, and arguably Letestu, filling those 'top six' gaps could be relatively easy when the results of the move equate to defensive stability. Include the potential top six player that I would like to see packaged, and Columbus finds themselves equally deep with only the offensive punch of Nash out of the lineup.
Trading Nash would certainly mark the end of an era in Columbus, but it would also provide Scott Howson with the tools to get Columbus into a position to win in the short term rather than forcing a full rebuild. It would also remove 7.8 million in cap room for a team that I seriously doubt flirts with the cap ceiling a year from now. While I am not begging for this trade to happen, I see a lot of value in what Nash could bring back to the Blue Jackets in order to better their future, and I would certainly hope that if a trade were to occur with Nash being involved, it would be one of a string of moves to better the team in the short term, including parting ways with a number of the expiring contracts and making an attempt to acquire a 1B goaltender this summer to share time with Mason next season.
Carry the Flag!