The Boston Bruins acquired one of the best players available at the NHL trade deadline Sunday when they completed a deal with the New York Rangers for forward Rick Nash.
The price to pry Nash from New York was center Ryan Spooner, winger Matt Beleskey, defenseman prospect Ryan Lindgren, a 2018 first-round draft pick and a 2019 seventh-round draft pick. The Rangers will retain 50 percent of Nash’s salary, while the B’s will do the same for Beleskey’s.
This trade is a slam dunk for the Bruins, and here’s why.
First, they didn’t give up anything significant.
They didn’t have to part with a key piece of their NHL roster or one of their elite prospects. Giving up a first-rounder can be risky, but the Bruins’ prospect pool is as loaded as it’s been in a long time, and a major reason for that is the fact they’ve made six first-round draft picks over the last three years. Three of those selections were defensemen, and that helps make Lindgren expendable.
Spooner was inconsistent and most of his best work came on the power play. Nash is a proven scorer and adds a physical edge that Spooner never could provide. Beleskey didn’t live up to his contract and injuries also played a factor in his struggles. Getting his contract — which has two more years left on it with a $3.8 million salary cap hit — off the books is a huge plus for Boston.
Nash should slot into the second line alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. Krejci has enjoyed a lot of success with highly skilled power forwards on his wing, most notably Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and Jarome Iginla. Nash is a similar player to those three.
Nash has tallied 28 points (18 goals, 10 assists) in 60 games on a bad Rangers team this season. He shoots the puck a ton, and Krejci’s top-tier playmaking ability should put Nash into a position to bury those scoring chances.
Going forward, the Bruins have strengthened their forward group by essentially replacing Spooner with a more skilled, stronger and more experienced player (Nash has played in 77 career playoff games), one who also should be highly motivated in the final year of his contract looking toward free agency this summer.
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney also kept — at least for now — all nine of his NHL-caliber defensemen. Given the abundance of injuries the B’s dealt with on their blue line in the first round of the playoffs last season, having too much depth on defense is a good thing.
The race for the Stanley Cup is as wide open as it’s been in a while, with no clear favorite to lift the best trophy in sports. Sure, the two-time defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins again are formidable, but they aren’t unbeatable. Boston has played very well against the Penguins and Atlantic Division leaders the Tampa Bay Lightning in recent seasons.
The Bruins were a legit threat to win the Stanley Cup before this trade, and they’re a bigger one after it. And the best part of the situation for the B’s was they made this move without sacrificing important parts of their future.