What Should the New York Rangers Do With Rick Nash?
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 14: Rick Nash #61 of the New York Rangers skates against the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden on October 14, 2017 in New York City. The Devils defeated the Rangers 3-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

New York Rangers forward Rick Nash is no longer a game-breaking talent. Both he and the team have arrived at a crossroads.

There was a time that Rick Nash was one of the most exciting, explosive players in the NHL. When he’d do things like this, making entire teams look foolish.

He’s had a heck of a career, much of it spent on an expansion team as their first ever draft pick. Talk about pressure. So to downplay what Rick Nash has done in the NHL is the wrong move.

But his best days are behind him. Through seven games in the 2017-18 season, he’s got just one goal and no assists. That’s not a solid return on the $7.9 million investment the Rangers have in the veteran forward this season.

Yes, real fans of the game of hockey know that Nash provides so much more than just points, as he’s consistently on penalty kill units and is easily one of the more defensively responsible forwards on the team. But that’s not what the Rangers are paying him for.

They need him to be the dynamic goal-scoring threat he used to be—and Nash is frustrated by the fact that he’s not.

“Where you’re having a year when everything goes in, you hit the post but the rebound goes off the goalie and trickles in, or the goalie gets his pad on it, but instead of the puck going through the crease and out, it goes into the net,” Nash told Larry Brooks of the New York Post. “But when they’re not going in, those pucks all bounce the wrong way.”

At this point, Nash and the rest of his teammates can’t quite put into words why these things are happening. To date, Nash, who owns a career shooting average of 12.3 percent is currently connecting on just 2.9 percent (1-for-34) of his shots. It’s not for lack of confidence from No. 61, who says he feels really good with the puck.

“The first four games I wasn’t playing with enough confidence, but I feel good with the puck….

It’s just not going in. It’s amazing what happens when they’re not going in.”

Nash has a lot riding on his performance this season, as he can become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career after it’s over. The Rangers seem hesitant to pull the trigger on an extension at this point, so Nash has to know he’s playing and fighting for a chance to extend his career.

For the Rangers, it remains to be seen what they feel is the best move for the organization. Obviously, if this losing streak continues, I think it’s a no-brainer to explore a trade with someone. His value wouldn’t be terribly high, but a small return would be better than no return if he left as a free agent. Would a team like San Jose be interested in reuniting the once dynamic Joe Thornton-Nash combo? I’d think they might be. The Rangers would be crazy not to listen to some offers.

What will be really tough, though, is if the Rangers turn things around and Nash is a big part of their rebound. Do the Rangers ride his newfound glory as far as they can, or does general manager Jeff Gorton try to sell-high on him while he’s hot?

At this point, no matter what happens the rest of the season, it’s time for the Rangers to move on from Nash. They shouldn’t be thinking about an extension for Nash with some big names—Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller, Brady Skjei and Jimmy Vesey—also looking for new deals. The money they’d spend on Nash is best spent elsewhere.

Neal Purcell has a tremendous passion for New York Rangers hockey and the sport of hockey in general. A graduate of SUNY Cortland in Upstate NY, Purcell coaches both a high school hockey team and a travel team in the winter. Purcell is also a part of a small family business in the Central New York Region.