On the morning of the 2002 NHL Draft, the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team with just two seasons in the NHL under its belt, made a draft-day trade with the Florida Panthers to secure the No. 1 overall pick.
That pick was used on Rick Nash, the first and only face of the franchise Columbus has ever had.
Nash has since evolved into one of the best power forwards in hockey. Unfortunately, the Blue Jackets have not evolved with their all-time leading scorer, managing just a single postseason appearance since joining the league.
Now, Nash appears to be on his way out of Columbus, according to the Columbus Post Dispatch. The Blue Jackets are pursuing trade options for their 27-year-old superstar, who has amassed 547 career points with the club.
Things can’t get much worse in Columbus.
But where did it all go wrong?
Columbus has definitely had the draft picks to accumulate talent. In fact, the Blue Jackets have entered the offseason with a top 10 pick in 12 of the last 13 years. But they have very little to show for it.
Nikolay Zherdev, Derick Brassard and Nikita Filatov all haunt Jackets’ fans dreams, and the current roster is left in shambles as a result of that poor drafting.
The 2011-12 season may have been the worst they’ve seen in Columbus. General manager Scott Howson got aggressive last offseason, signing James Wisniewski and trading for Jeff Carter, instilling hope in the fan base.
That hope burnt out quickly, though. Carter and Wisniewski both suffered through injuries, providing the Jackets with very little production. By the trading deadline, less than a year after trading the No. 7 overall pick and Jakub Voracek to obtain him, Howson dealt Carter to the Los Angeles Kings and toyed with the idea of dealing Nash as well.
As the season drew to a close, the Jackets were at least favorites to land the No. 1 overall pick after finishing with the league’s worst record. And Nail Yakupov was just what the doctor ordered for a team in such disarray.
But as the story often goes in Columbus, the Jackets did not win the draft lottery. Could it get much worse?
For Blue Jackets fans, it has gotten worse.
Nash, the only success story the franchise has ever known, is back on the market, and his departure seems imminent, which will only further deplete the roster.
The Jackets are likely to get a big return for Nash, but this roster needs a ton of help. Draft picks will likely be included in the deal as well, but given Columbus’ draft luck and history, fans will be hesitant to get excited over picks.
Plus, how will the Blue Jackets handle the Nash trade negotiations? The front office has not done a ton to show much ability in this area, and the market for Nash will be very sensitive. First, he will have to approve the team to which he is traded, limiting the market. And then the team will have to be able to fit his $7.8 million cap hit under the salary cap and meet Columbus’ demands.
Will the Jackets settle for less just to deal Nash? Is dealing Nash going to solve anything?
It certainly seems like things can’t get much worse in Columbus right now. But as the Blue Jackets have proven in the past, there is always a new, rockier bottom to hit.