The Boston Bruins bolstered their chances of contending for the Stanley Cup with a bold move, acquiring Rick Nash from the New York Rangers a day before the NHL trade deadline.
“Our players have made a push and I wanted to inch that along if we could and reward it in a way,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said.
Boston added the veteran – one of the best available – in a market filled with players in the last season of their contracts and put him in the lineup Sunday night against the Buffalo Sabres.
The 33-year-old Nash had 18 goals and 10 assists this season with the Rangers and his first point with the Bruins will be No. 800 in his career. Perhaps most importantly for Boston, the 6-foot-4, 211-pound winger adds much-needed size up front and makes its second line even more formidable.
“I think it sends a message that management feels that we’re a real good hockey team and he’s going to make us better,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Where that leads, you can only speculate, and I don’t want to go there now because it’s not even March.”
NHL teams, both buyers and sellers, have until noon Monday to make a deal.
Teams toward the top of the standings, or on the bubble, may add a veteran with an expiring contract in exchange for prospects and picks. Franchises out of the playoff race are hoping to get anything they can to potentially help their future in exchange for players they may not re-sign in the summer.
“The standings dictate who the buyers and sellers are at the trade deadline,” said Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, whose team will probably miss the playoffs for a second straight year.
The Rangers, without a doubt, are rebuilding. They’re in eighth, and last, place in the Metropolitan Division with slim chances of extending their postseason streak to eight years.
Nash didn’t fit into New York’s future plans as he played out the final season of an eight-year deal for $62.4 million he signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets. And, the franchise got a return for its asset instead of letting him go for nothing as an unrestricted free agent in July.
The Rangers received Boston’s first-round pick this year along with forwards Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey, defenseman Ryan Lindgren and a seventh-round pick next year.
Like Boston, Toronto has a comfortable cushion to earn one of the Atlantic Division’s three guaranteed spots in the playoffs and they’re not satisfied with that.
The Maple Leafs added 35-year-old Tomas Plekanec and prospect Kyle Baun from Montreal in a multiplayer deal. Plekaneck has six goals and 24 points this season with the Canadiens and 605 points in his career, which was spent entirely with them.
The Canadiens, on the verge of missing the postseason for the second time in three years, gave up a Czech forward for a second-round pick this year along with prospects Rinat Valiev and Kerby Rychel.
“It’s 15 years of my life” Plekanec said. “It’s my home. My kids go to school here. Their first language basically is French, but now I’m going to Toronto and there’s going to be playoff hockey and having a chance to play for the Stanley Cup.”
After advancing to the Stanley Cup last year, the Nashville Predators were busy the day before the NHL trade deadline.
The defending Western Conference champion Predators acquired Brandon Bollig and Troy Grosenick from San Jose for a sixth-round pick this year. They also traded forward Pontus Aberg to Edmonton for forward Mark Letestu and then dealt him to Columbus for a fourth-round pick.
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