Nearly 6 1/2 years later, it looks as though it will happen again. Just as the Bruins dealt away Joe Thornton, the No. 1 pick in the 1997 draft, it appears the Blue Jackets will do the same with Rick Nash, the top choice in the 2002 draft.
Sit back and enjoy, Boston fans. We know this can be some kind of fun, and it will serve as an interesting comparison with what happened here in November 2005.
The Thornton-Nash similarities and connecting points are fascinating. Consider:
- Both are big bodies. Thornton, a center, is 6 feet 4 inches and 230 pounds. Nash, primarily a left winger, is 6-4, 216. While Jumbo Joe is first and foremost a playmaker, Nash is more a shooter (he led the league with 41 goals as a 19-year-old). But they are both equally nimble, rare for such big men, and Nash is a lock for at least a couple of highlight-reel strikes each season.
- In the three seasons before being dealt, Thornton averaged 81 points. Nash, with perhaps a lesser supporting cast in Columbus, has averaged 71 points his last three seasons. He had a bolder career start, with 207 points his first four years, compared with Thornton’s 179.
- Thornton was 26 years old when he was dealt to the Sharks. Nash turns 28 in June.
- During the 2004-05 lockout, the two Ontario boys were teammates in Switzerland (Davos), where they compiled 36 goals and 64 assists, a total of 100 points, in a combined 84 regular-season games. In all his years in Columbus, Nash has never had such a great fit at pivot. The Blue Jackets thought they found the right guy last summer when they acquired Jeff Carter from the Flyers, but the Carter-Nash tandem has not clicked. Carter has been hurt this season, and he always has been more of a shooter than a setup guy.
- When Thornton was cashiered for Brad Stuart, Marco Sturm, and Wayne Primeau, Bruins bosses Mike O’Connell and Harry Sinden were convinced of his talent, but not his ability to be the franchise piece/leader that could deliver their first Cup since 1972. With Nash cast in that role in Columbus upon arrival in 2002, the Blue Jackets are about to clinch their 10th playoff DNQ in their 11-year existence. He isn’t the reason they’ve flopped, but when you’re the face of the franchise, your shoulders, no matter how wide, eventually are targeted for the weight of everyone’s disappointment. Like Thornton, Nash just hasn’t been able to get his franchise there.
Like the Bruins in 2005, the Blue Jackets need game-ready players, and they especially need a No. 1 goalie in light of the career collapse of Steve Mason, the 2009 Rookie of the Year (good mornin’, Andrew Raycroft).
If general manager Scott Howson and his top adviser, ex-Penguins GM Craig Patrick, play this correctly, they should be able to flip Nash for a No. 1 goalie (perhaps one in waiting) and two eager young NHLers, ideally a winger to play off Carter and a back liner to help steady a leaky defense.
The Bruins have a fit here with Tuukka Rask as the centerpiece. After Rask, they would have to give up, say, David Krejci or Milan Lucic. Lucic likely would be the Blue Jackets’ “ask,’’ in the hopes that he could ride-and-rip with Carter.
The defenseman would be someone such as Johnny Boychuk (just signed to a three-year extension) or Adam McQuaid, who entered the NHL as a Columbus draft pick (No. 55, 2005). All of this could change if the Blue Jackets instead asked for Rask and top defensive prospect Doug Hamilton. Possible from the Columbus end. Impossible for the Bruins to consider.
Vancouver could get the deal done around ex-Boston College goalie Cory Schneider, 2008 first-round pick (No. 10) Cody Hodgson, and young backliner Chris Tanev. Alex Edler would be too much, Keith Ballard too little.
Combined cap hit for Schneider, Hodgson, and Tanev: approximately $3 million. Keep in mind: Nash’s “number’’ is a very beefy $7.8 million. This would have to stand as the Blue Jackets’ dream package: prime young talent and some $4.8 million off the cap.
Rask and Schneider are the two best young goalies who appear capable of filling a No. 1 role. It’s a drop from them to the likes of Los Angeles’s Jonathan Bernier, but he could be enough to entice the Blue Jackets, provided the Kings can hand over two other young ready-to-go guys. For a club so challenged to score, it’s a real reach.
The outlier here could be St. Louis, where either goalie, Brian Elliott or Jaro Halak, could satisfy Columbus’s need in net. They’re also both only 26, ideal for such a swap. The rest of the package probably would have to include David Perron, finally back from concussion issues from a Thornton smack early last season, and former No. 4 pick Alex Pietrangelo on defense.
Do not discount Toronto, Philadelphia, or the Rangers, even if none of them has the obvious goalie component. Of those three, the Flyers could have a slight edge with Sergei Bobrovsky, but he doesn’t have the profile of Schneider, Rask, or perhaps even Bernier.
Thornton and Nash no doubt would love to be reunited, but would the Sharks be considerably better with Nash aboard, especially after culling out key talent to get him? Probably not.
There is one huge difference, of course, when comparing this swap with the Thornton-to-San Jose deal. We blinked and Thornton was gone, not a word of O’Connell’s intent to be found in the media. The lingering criticism of O’Connell has been that he did not get word out and therefore did not bid up the market.
No one knows for certain whether O’Connell could have done that, especially in light of the fact that Thornton already was making upward of $7 million a year when the cap was $39 million per team. His price influenced the return, as it will with Nash, even with the cap now over $60 million.
No matter what, Bruins fans will be left to compare the Thornton/Nash takes, and wonder even more whether the night of Nov. 30, 2005, could have put the franchise on a much different course.
Moore goes on the move again
A couple of bodies were on the move Thursday, which is nothing new for ex-Harvard forward Dominic Moore, flipped from Tampa to San Jose for a second-round pick in June. The speedy, versatile Moore, 31, is now with his ninth NHL team since leaving the Cambridge campus in the spring of 2003.
That’s nine NHL teams in less than nine calendar years. For those who have lost his curriculum vitae, he originally was a Ranger pick, No. 95 in 2000.
Also dealt on Thursday: veteran Swedish backliner Nicklas Grossman, sent from Dallas to Philadelphia for a second-round pick in 2012 and a third-rounder in 2013. The Flyers love size, and Grossman, while never a point-getter, is 6-4, 230, and he can chew up some of those minutes left on the table by the injured Chris Pronger. But no one is replacing Pronger’s overall moxie and presence on the Bullies’ back line.
Tampa Bay’s Pavel Kubina, another 6-4 defenseman, but with far more offensive pop than Grossman, was on the table until last night, when the Flyers grabbed him as well for another pair of draft picks.
A Czech Olympian, the 34-year-old Kubina certainly will bring more than countryman Jaro Spacek (still with the Hurricanes).
Both Spacek and Kubina are unrestricted free agents as of July 1. Spacek would be a decent pickup for the Bruins.
Optimism on Horton
The doom-and-gloomers around Bruins Nation keep predicting that the concussed Nathan Horton - last seen in uniform for 11:51 on Jan. 22 - won’t be back this season, but that is not realistic, according to GM Peter Chiarelli.
“I’d give that a less than 1 percent chance,’’ said Chiarelli.
Horton, whose absence has pushed David Krejci into a black hole, was riding a stationary bike at the Garden Wednesday but isn’t likely to rejoin the club for workouts until after the conclusion of their six-game road trip Saturday in Ottawa.
When the Senators play on Causeway Street Feb. 28, the day after the trade deadline, 22 games will remain in the regular season. Additional word Friday that Rich Peverley would be on the woodpile for 4-6 weeks (wrenched knee) underscored the need for Chiarelli to land help on the wing. A couple of suspects: Mike Knuble (Washington) and Dustin Penner (Los Angeles). Both come with limitations, but they do have size (upward of 6-4).
Veteran Duck may yet fly off
Teemu Selanne told ESPN, “A trade is not on my mind right now,’’ in large part because the dead Ducks have shown some life over the last month. Interesting, though, that the Lightning became sellers last week while the two teams were the same number of points (8) out of a playoff spot. Selanne, who will be 42 in July, won a Cup in 2007 with the Ducks and doesn’t have that need to hunt down another as a lifetime achievement award. But he would be a tremendous addition to any club with serious Cup aspirations this spring. If the Ducks figure this week that they’re sellers and not buyers, the bet here is that Selanne tries to steer a deal toward Vancouver, San Jose, or Detroit. All fit his style. All take a giant step forward with him on the roster.
Roger Maris had it tough running down Babe Ruth’s home run mark, but imagine the pressure now for young Blake Geoffrion, dished Friday from Nashville to Montreal for ex-Bruin defenseman Hal Gill. Blake’s dad Danny Geoffrion had a brief tour with the Canadiens (32 games, 1979-80), and his grandfather Bernie “Boom-Boom’’ Geoffrion was a goal-scoring Montreal legend in the 1950s and into the ’60s. Blake, 24, is a 2010 Wisconsin graduate and has split time this year between Nashville and AHL Milwaukee. He has some skills, but in a city that cherishes its past and holds unrealistic hopes for the present, this a deal that screams “HELP!’’ from the start. Meanwhile, the well-traveled Gill (NHL team No. 5) is a solid depth pickup for the Predators. Gill won a Cup with the Penguins in ’09. It’s not likely to happen again this year with Nashville, but it absolutely wasn’t going to happen for the 36-year-old back liner in Montreal.
Three GMs I spoke with in recent days said they are planning roster moves related to free agency as if the basic structure and operating procedures of the CBA will be retained past the expiration of the current document Sept. 15. If they have a concern, they said, it’s that the existing cap number, $64.3 million, could be rolled back, which could present problems to clubs already hard against the number. Key here is the strategy in dealing with restricted free agents (such as Tuukka Rask in Boston). Rarely do clubs try to steal players via RFA offer sheets, but according to the GMs with whom I spoke, they are going to approach summer 2012 like every other summer. So, yes, at the moment the Bruins are vulnerable to another club dropping big money on Rask as of July 1, provided Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli does not extend his deal in the coming weeks. But even then, the Bruins retain the right to match any offer, and all clubs are allowed to spike payroll to nearly $71 million over the summer without penalty.
The yield for Adam McQuaid, when the Bruins obtained him from Columbus in May 2007, was a fifth-round pick that eventually made its way to Dallas and brought the Stars left winger Jamie Benn at No. 129. Benn banged home 22 goals and 56 points last season, and as of yesterday he led the Stars in scoring with 17-32-49. Ex-Bruin Michael Ryder stood 21-19-40 and should outperform his Boston high of 53 points in 2008-09 . . . Like last year, the latest the Stanley Cup will be awarded this year is June 15, and it could be as early as June 8. So once the calendar hits March 1, it’s roughly a 100-day countdown, give or take a sweep . . . Brad Marchand, called for a clipping minor Wednesday night in Montreal, was fortunate to tiptoe around supplemental discipline the next day when his dirty hit on Russian rookie Alex Emelin was reviewed by league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. It has become quite clear that the Little Ball of Hate is an impulse hitter, not unlike the now-reformed Matt Cooke, who had logged only 20 PIMs headed into yesterday’s matinee at Philadelphia (Cooke averaged 112 PIMs his first three years with the Penguins). Marchand is a better, more skilled player than Cooke, but he needs to work on impulse control, or his next review by Shanahan could bring a six- to eight-game suspension . . . To satisfy a number of reader questions, yes, the no-trade clause on Tim Thomas’s contract expires June 30. But that doesn’t mean he’s necessarily going anywhere. There are far worse scenarios than to have a two-time Vezina winner on the roster at a budget-friendly $3 million. And if he keeps cranking out his Facebook postings at a Danielle Steel pace, his cost per word is perhaps the greatest bargain in publishing history.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.