According to various sources, Rick Nash wasn't available last week.
The Columbus Blue Jackets were steering inquiries to other parts of their roster. The offers arriving from other NHL teams weren't the stuff that reloads a moribund franchise; please recall Darren Dreger's report that one "uncomfortably low" offer rolled in for Jeff Carter.
Sensing that, Blue Jackets management and ownership had a "major shift in philosophy for the organization" within the last week, according to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch.
Rick Nash, the Untouchable, would become Rick Nash, the Trade Bait.
Last week, the Blue Jackets' brass -- owner John P. McConnell, president Mike Priest, Howson, senior advisor Craig Patrick, interim coach Todd Richards and perhaps others -- met to discuss the club's plans as it heads toward the deadline. In that meeting, it was determined that the possibility of trading Nash needed to be explored.
In the days that followed, the Blue Jackets met with Nash and/or his agent, Joe Resnick, where the plan was presented. Nash, who has a no-movement clause for this season and the three following seasons, would have to approve any trade.
(That's right: The man who made the Ron Francis trade is advising on a potential Rick Nash trade.)
Said Nash to reporters after practice:
"I'm a Blue Jacket right now. I've played my whole career here and it's a special place to me. So as of right now I'm a Blue Jacket."
"Right now" … well if that doesn't speak volumes.
As one source asked rhetorically, "How does a player with a No Movement Clause end up in trade talk?"
Easy answer to that one: because he's permitted it. Understand this, with a player of Nash's stature -- a first overall draft pick, the face and identity of the Blue Jackets' franchise, a world-class talent and Canadian Olympian with an outstanding international hockey resume -- there is no chance that Columbus general manager Scott Howson would get involved in any trade talk for Nash without the player's blessing. He couldn't. It would be worse than bad form.
Again: If Nash wants out, we'll never know it. He doesn't want to come off as King Douche here, abandoning the franchise and the fans. He's said from the start he wouldn't ask to be traded, and the news leaking out continues to place him in that light.
Whatever the case, Nash is on the block. The Jackets are listening. Blogs are fantasy casting trade scenarios (like one that ends up with Ryan Kesler and Brandon Dubinsky in Columbus ... yup) and everyone's anteing up their team's proposals — even if Nash's no-trade clause will probably eliminate 24 teams from the derby, such as it is.
No matter how this goes down, or even if this goes down: We offer our thanks and gratitude to the Blue Jackets and Rick Nash for this orgy of conjecture and hockey rumors they've initiated near the trade deadline. We were starting to get worried that the 2012 deadline was only going to consist of Brian Burke doing nothing, Hal Gill being treated like the second coming of Doug Harvey and the TSN boys playing catch with their quiet BlackBerrys from across the studio.