COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) The New York Rangers have a new star forward.The Columbus Blue Jackets have one less headache and three more quality players.The Blue Jackets finally met captainRick Nash's mid-season request and dealt him on Monday along with a third-round pick and a minor-league defenseman to the Rangers for centersBrandon DubinskyandArtem Anisimov, defensemanTim Erixonand a first-round pick next year.The deal gives the Rangers a big, sturdy right wing to add to their core of solid young players and also helps them counter moves made by other Eastern Conference powers this offseason. Nash will join a New York offense that includes captainRyan Callahan,Brad RichardsandMarian Gaborik.The Rangers were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season and just missed out on the Presidents' Trophy for most regular-season points. New York defeated Ottawa and Washington in the playoffs before losing to New Jersey in the conference finals in six games. Nash immediately improves their credentials and gets them - on paper, at least - closer to their first Stanley Cup since 1994.The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, ended months of speculation about what they would do after Nash went to management in January and asked to be traded. He later said, in a curious bit of logic, that one of his main goals was making the Blue Jackets stronger."The biggest thing is that when management said when they were going to make a rebuild and a reshape, I thought the best thing for the team and the organization would be to get assets for me," he said. "And I thought it would be best for my career."The move to New York and a perennial playoff team should be a boon to his career, although it will require a major alteration in his lifestyle. Quiet and almost shy, Nash enjoyed playing golf at nice courses and walking around Columbus virtually unnoticed. That will end when he takes his act to the Big Apple.Nash is in the third year of an eight-year contract he signed in 2010 which has an average annual value of 7.8 million. The total salary cap hit of Dubinsky, Anisimov and Erixon is almost exactly the same.Nash, the oldest player in the deal at 28, is one of the most decorated players in the league. He is a five-time All-Star who helped his native Canada win the Olympic gold medal in the 2010 Olympics. He also has played in four World Championships, leading Canada to gold in 2007 and silver in 2005 and 2008. Plus, he shared the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2004, scoring 41 goals to lead the league along withIlya Kovalchuk, then of Atlanta, and Calgary'sJarome Iginla.He is coming off a season in which he had 30 goals and 29 assists while playing in all 82 games. He has 289 goals and 258 assists in 674 career NHL games, all with the Blue Jackets. His offensive skill set will be welcomed by a New York team that struggled for offense during the postseason. With one of the NHL's top goaltenders, Henrik Lunqvist, playing in front of a deep, young defense, many people believed the Rangers were just one scorer away from a title last season. Offense was clearly a problem in the six-game loss to the rival Devils, as the Rangers did not score more than three goals in any of those contests.Columbus general manager Scott Howson spoke with the other 29 teams in the NHL about Nash in the days leading up to the trade deadline, but had talked seriously with just a few clubs - including the reported six or so that Nash would waive his no-trade clause to join.With the worst record in the NHL last season, the Blue Jackets needed an influx of talent. They believe they made a key step at the trade deadline when they sent forwardJeff Carterto the Los Angeles Kings - who would go on to win the Stanley Cup with Carter playing a key role - for young defensemanJack Johnsonand a first-round pick.Johnson, who captained the United States squad in the 2010 Olympics, will likely take over that role in Columbus.They also traded for another young forward,Nick Foligno, in a one-for-one deal with the Ottawa Senators earlier this summer.Dubinsky, 26, had 10 goals and 24 assists in 77 games a year ago with the Rangers, while the 24-year-old Anisimov had 16 goals and 20 assists in 79 games. Erixon, a former first-round pick of the Calgary Flames in 2009, only played in 18 games for the Rangers last year.The loss of Nash will hurt a Columbus offense which already was starved for goals. But Dubinsky and Anisimov will likely get time on the top two lines along with Foligno,Vinny Prospal,Derick Brassard,R.J. Umbergerand youngstersRyan Johansenand Cam Atkinson.The Blue Jackets, who have only been to the postseason once in their 11 seasons, have three first-round picks in the 2013 draft.
Nearly five months after taking a puck to the mouth that resulted in major damage, Logan Couture is still dealing with the aftereffects of his surgically repaired mouth, which now features several false teeth.
Appearing on the NHL Network this week, Couture was asked how he’s feeling with less than one month to go before the Sharks open training camp on Sep. 14.
“There’s good days and bad days,” Couture said. “My bottom teeth are still my real teeth. They’ve tried to keep them so I don’t lose them. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, they’re still pretty sore. My top teeth are all fake now – my front six, I think. So, it’s different. It just feels different in my mouth.
“But everything else with my face and all that is healed. I’m lucky that it’s an injury that didn’t affect my training, and hopefully won’t affect me going forward.”
Couture was injured on March 25 in Nashville. He was set up just outside the crease in the offensive zone when a Brent Burns point shot hit a stick before squarely battering the now 28-year-old’s mouth.
After missing the final seven games of the regular season, Couture returned for the Sharks’ playoff opener. He managed to play in all six games of the first round loss, posting two goals and one assist for three points, although he struggled at times and was seemingly targeted by the Oilers.
Couture is currently in his hometown of London, Ontario where he’s staging a casino event for brain research. Fellow Sharks Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo will take part, as will other NHL stars like the Kings’ Drew Doughty.
It was late in the lockout-shortened 2013 season when Sharks general manager Doug Wilson really started to prepare for the future. Douglas Murray was dealt to Pittsburgh for a pair of second round selections. Ryane Clowe packed his bags for Broadway, in exchange for a second and a third round pick from the Rangers. Michal Handzus went to Chicago for a fourth rounder.
Wilson’s logic was sound, as it typically takes two-to-four years before draft picks have a chance to make an impact at the NHL level. The general manager figured that by then, players like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau either wouldn’t be a part of the team anymore or would be slowing down. Restocking the cupboards was essential.
From 2013-15, the Sharks made 24 selections over the next three NHL entry drafts, including seven total picks in the top two rounds. Some players have shown promise. Others haven’t. A few aren’t in the organization anymore. That’s the nature of the business.
The way the 2017-18 opening night roster is shaping up, though, now is the time that some of these young players in the system simply have to step up. Marleau and his 27 goals last season are gone, Thornton’s numbers are down and he’s coming off of major knee surgery, Joe Pavelski is now 33 years old, and the team’s offense depth is suspect at best. There have been no notable additions in the offseason.
Frankly, this season could be viewed as a referendum on the team’s amateur scouting staff, including longtime director Tim Burke. Wilson handed Burke and his staff a wonderful opportunity to provide the organization with fresh talent with the team approaching an organizational crossroads.
What has transpired so far is a bit concerning, as already two of the team’s first round picks from that span ended up being nothing more than trade bait.
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Mirco Mueller, chosen 18th overall in 2013, was a huge disappointment in San Jose. It’s been well documented that he was mishandled by the organization when he was rushed to the league in 2014-15, but even this past season, regular observers of the Barracuda had Mueller as nothing more than the AHL team’s fourth-best defenseman. He’s now in New Jersey, swapped for a pair of draft picks.
The scouting staff was so high on Mueller on draft day that Wilson traded a valuable second round pick to Detroit to move up just two places to select him. With those acquired picks, the Red Wings took Anthony Mantha 20th overall and Tyler Bertuzzi 58th overall – two forwards that have shown a whole lot more NHL potential than Mueller (especially Mantha, who has 39 points in 70 career NHL games so far).
Perhaps more concerning, though, is that the Sharks 2013 draft class as a whole is looking like a dud. Second round pick Gabryel Boudreau suffered a wrist injury and is no longer in the organization anymore, but he was trending downward even before he got hurt. None of the remaining players selected from rounds four-through-seven look to be NHL quality, either.
The next year brought Nikolay Goldobin, chosen 27th overall after the Sharks traded down in the first round, and he ended up being the key piece in the Jannik Hansen acquisition from Vancouver. Goldobin showed some flashes of offensive talent during his time in the organization, but his lack of hockey sense and on-ice work ethic helped lead to his exit. Whether Goldobin becomes an NHL regular, even with a fresh start in Vancouver, is highly uncertain.
Had the Sharks stayed at 20th overall, they could have selected Nick Schmaltz (20th overall), Robby Fabbri (21st overall), or David Pastrnak (25th overall). Instead, they moved down and took Goldobin, making it back-to-back first round failures.
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Still, unlike 2013, other players from Goldobin’s draft class have shown some promise. Second rounder Julius Bergman was a steady blueliner for a good Barracuda team last season, and although he’s probably not NHL-ready yet, he could be on the right track. Late in the draft the team found Kevin Labanc in the sixth round with the 171st overall selection, and Labanc had some nice moments with the Sharks last season. His shot and his hands make him a solid prospect, although Labanc still probably has to get a bit bigger and stronger to play in the NHL full-time.
Noah Rod (second round, 53rd overall) and Rourke Chartier (fifth round, 149th overall) are also still developing, with Rod playing against men in the Swiss league the past few seasons and Chartier a valuable player for the Barracuda last year.
In 2015, the draft provided the Sharks with Timo Meier at ninth overall, as the club drafted in the top 10 for the first time since 2007. At this point, Meier is far and away the best prospect in the organization, and he’ll likely be relied upon to play a top nine (or even a top six) role for the Sharks this season.
The 2015 draft brought other decent prospects, too. Defenseman Jeremy Roy was selected 31st overall, and after suffering a serious knee injury in juniors this year, he’ll get a chance to play for the Barracuda this year. Fourth rounder Adam Helewka and fifth rounder Rudolfs Balcers have also developed nicely since draft day. It’s still a bit too early to evaluate that draft as a whole.
It should also be mentioned that while their draft day record may be suspect the past few seasons, the Sharks have brought in European free agents like Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen. Karlsson has developed into a versatile, hard-working forward; Donskoi has shown flashes of offensive brilliance despite a disappointing second year in the NHL last season; and Sorensen looks primed to make the opening night roster after his speed and tenacity shined through during the Sharks’ first round series loss to Edmonton.
The Sharks scouting staff has helped to keep the team competitive for a long time, and they’re as big a reason as any that the team has missed the playoffs just once in the past 11 seasons. But this is also a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and now is the time that the Sharks need to see some results from players that were chosen by Burke and company.