WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Rick Nash — remember him? — was considered the prize catch of the NHL’s February trade deadline. Not considered among the favorites to deal for him as the Feb. 26 buzzer drew near, the Bruins were thrilled to acquire the veteran winger from the Rangers, ecstatic about adding him for what they hope will be a deep playoff run.
Now the question lingers: Will the 6-foot-4-inch right winger be seen again in the Black-and-Gold batting order anytime soon, or at all, with but eight games remaining in the regular season?
It’s beginning to sound doubtful.
Amid an otherwise encouraging update Monday in regard to some of his many out-of-action players, coach Bruce Cassidy offered little detail when asked whether Nash could be sidelined long term. The club unwilling to disclose details of his injury, believed to have occurred March 17 in Tampa, Nash Tuesday night will miss his fifth straight game when the Bruins face the Jets. His last goal, his third since joining the club, was March 10.
“I haven’t been around, so I don’t know the ins and outs if Rick, you know, exactly where he’s at with his recovery,” said Cassidy, conducting an afternoon media update here while his players enjoyed a day off skates. “So that’s the best I can give you on that one, until we’re back home in Boston and get a little more of an update.
“I get information, don’t get me wrong, but we’re not there. That’s a tougher one to project.”
It’s Cassidy’s right to divulge whatever he cares about injuries, and he obviously knows far more about Nash than what he is willing to make public. He was willing to say that the injured likes of Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, and Jake DeBrusk, all back in Boston, have skated of late and are progressing toward a return. Some of them, he said, could be back in the lineup as early as the coming weekend.
Nash, according to Cassidy, has not skated, and presumably hasn’t been on blades since March 19, the day he practiced in the morning and then was unavailable for the game that night vs. Columbus.
In 11 games prior to injury, mostly playing with David Krejci as his center, Nash cobbled together a 3-3—6 line. He fired 23 shots on net in his first four games, for a pair of goals and an assist, then went 1-2—3 in his next seven games, not showing the jump and fire he displayed immediately after the deal.
The Bruins gave up real assets to add Nash, the package including center/wing Ryan Spooner, defense prospect Ryan Lindgren, and a first-round pick in the June draft. They also unloaded the protracted disappointment that was Matt Beleskey, the greatly underperforming winger whom they signed to a five-year $19 million deal in July 2015.
In 13 games wearing the Blueshirt, Spooner has tallied 2 goals and 14 points. The Rangers also coaxed Lindgren out of college (Minnesota) after only his sophomore year, and he has logged two games (goal, assist) with AHL Hartford. As expected, Beleskey was ditched to Hartford, where he has tallied a meager 1-4—5 in 11 games and the Rangers don’t have to keep his cap hit on the payroll.
Nash, 33, a veteran of 1,137 games (including playoffs), is on an expiring deal (worth $7.8 million per year) and is on target to walk as an unrestricted free agent July 1. Until further notice, it’s possible he leaves the Hub of Hockey with 11 Bruins games added to his résumé.