Rangers Addition of Rick Nash Just the Latest Move in Arms Race Turning Atlantic into NHL’s Toughest Division


Rangers Addition of Rick Nash Just the Latest Move in Arms Race Turning Atlantic into NHL's Toughest DivisionThe Rangers have landed the biggest name on the trade market with Monday's acquisition of Rick Nash.

The Flyers will find out in the coming days if their $110 million offer was enough to pry the top all-around defenseman away from the Predators, as Nashville decides whether it will match Philadelphia's offer to Shea Weber.

Oh, and Pittsburgh still has that Sidney Crosby guy, who was locked up for 12 more years with a $104.4 million deal of his own this summer, not to mention the reigning Hart Trophy winner in Evgeni Malkin.

Yes, things should be very interesting in the Atlantic Division for the foreseeable future, especially when one considers the fact that it was actually New Jersey that made it the furthest in last year's playoffs. The Devils knocked off both the Flyers and Rangers en route to the Cup Final.

They took a big hit when their captain, Zach Parise, signed his own megadeal along with Ryan Suter in Minnesota, but Martin Brodeur is back, Ilya Kovalchuk won't be going anywhere for a few decades yet with his mammoth contract and Lou Lamoriello is still calling the shots. So New Jersey can't be ignored either.

The Islanders? Well, they're still the Islanders. They still can't find a decent place to play and their biggest acquisition, defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, has now filed a grievance to try to void his trade from Anaheim a month after being dealt to New York at the draft.

Visnovsky might not be the only one looking to escape that Atlantic Division murderers' row. That division has clearly become the top grouping in the NHL. While last year the Central Division may have given them a run for their money, this summer the money — and the talent — has flowed into the Atlantic.

While Detroit hasn't been able to land a replacement for the retired Niklas Lidstrom, Nashville has already lost Suter and may also part ways with Weber and Chicago and St. Louis have largely stood pat, the Rangers and Flyers have been among the boldest players on the offseason stage.

The Rangers were able to acquire Nash without surrendering any of the key young pieces Columbus initially sought, with Ryan McDonagh, Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan all remaining in New York. The Rangers may still have to pay eventually as those players and other key guys like Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Callahan and Marian Gaborik come up for new deals in the near future and Nash's $7.8 million cap hit could cause complications, but for now they are a stronger team.

And they may get even stronger yet with plenty of cap space remaining for the upcoming season and keen interest in adding free agent Shane Doan to further strengthen their forward corps. The Flyers and Penguins are among the other teams pursuing Doan, and with the way this offseason has gone, if he does in fact leave Phoenix it wouldn't be a surprise to see him end up in the Atlantic.

Those teams may beat up on each other throughout the season, which wouldn't exactly be anything new, but surviving the gauntlet of their intradivisional schedule could prepare them better than anything for the intensity of the playoffs to follow.

The Bruins may be the one team in the conference capable of standing toe-to-toe with the bigger and better Atlantic powers. The Bruins didn't add significantly to their roster this summer, but they did make sure to keep the core of their 2011 Cup squad intact. If Nathan Horton can return to form and stay healthy after concussions ended each of his last two seasons early, and Tuukka Rask lives up to his potential as the new No. 1 in net, the Bruins have the depth, toughness and playoff experience to match any of those teams, but those are a couple of significant questions for Boston to answer.

There are also plenty of recent examples of teams that have loaded up in the offseason and entered the year looking unstoppable on paper, only to quickly fall by the wayside once the actual games begin. Which way the revamped Rangers and Flyers will go won't be determined until the season actually gets under way, whenever that may be, but one thing is for sure. The moves this summer have put the spotlight back on Broadway and Broad Street, and those Atlantic Division games will once again be true marquee matchups not to be missed.

Have a question for Douglas Flynn? Send it to him via Twitter at @douglasflynn or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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