Occasionally, the New York Rangers crowds at Madison Square Garden morph into those at the old ECW arena, where fans' chants were as much a part of the evening's entertainment as a barbed-wired baseball bat. Please recall the "Can You Hear Us?" chant directed at Bruce Boudreau during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
On Sunday night, Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets scored a game-tying goal with 1:33 left in the third period, before the Rangers won the game 22 seconds into overtime.
After Nash scored, a chant echoed through the crowd: "We Don't Want You!"
The Rangers are, of course, a leading candidate to snag the Blue Jackets captain, who said after the game (via ESPN New York):
"I mean, that's the reception you're going to get in any building if you score in the last minute to tie it up on the road," Nash answered good-naturedly. "It was an exciting game and it was a tough one. We were lucky to get one point."
Yes, what arena in the NHL hasn't heard a "we don't want you!" chant in the waning moments of a game? None of them outside of MSG last night? OK then …
But the more you read Rangers fans and pundits tell it, that chant was less about the man than it is about the cost to acquire him.
Via Chris Botta, here's Nash before the Rangers/Blue Jackets game:
From Larry Brooks of the New York Post, the potential cost of Nash-to-the-Rangers:
Sather is fazed by Columbus' asking price, believed to be Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan McDonagh or Michael Del Zotto, Boston College winger Chris Kreider and either a first-round pick or another of the Rangers' top prospects. McDonagh and Del Zotto are untouchables on the NHL roster, and Kreider is regarded as a can't-miss prospect with a ceiling as high as those in an apartment in a Manhattan pre-war building.
As for Dubinsky, the issue isn't whether Nash can eclipse his offensive output, because he will; the issue is whether taking an important, symbolic player off the Rangers roster for Nash is the right decision. George Bretherton of the NY Times takes a look back the trades the Rangers and Devils made on the way to the Cup in 1994 and 1995 respectively, and surmises:
Glen Sather, the Rangers president and general manager, would be wise to consider Lamoriello's logic. Fans at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night who chanted, "we don't want you" at Columbus forward Rick Nash after he scored the tying goal late in the third period of the Rangers' 3-2 overtime victory were not chanting those words because they don't want a player of Nash's quality. The fans just don't want to give up players, such as Brandon Dubinsky, who already epitomize the team's identity and who have been rumored to be involved in a potential trade.
That's rub: Nash is a star player, the type not readily available in the NHL. The price tag for his services, both financially and in personnel going back the other way, is steep. Writes Alex Nunn on Blueline Station:
There's no doubting the skillset Nash would bring to New York, and at a lesser cap-hit he would perhaps be worth such a big investment. But his hit is $7.8m per season, the fifth highest in the NHL, and as such he simply isn't worth the loss of those assets at this point.
… Of course, there are two schools of thought at this point of the season. With a contender's window open for the first-placed Rangers, is this the time at which you pay the price to acquire the piece that puts you over the top? Personally I feel the cost is just too much for Nash and his crippling cap-hit, but I can see the argument for acquiring another top-end forward. If only Bobby Ryan were still available.
Meanwhile, the venerable Hockey Rodent chimes in with his take on Nash, the Rangers and the game last evening:
I was neither overwhelmed by Rick Nash nor underwhelmed this evening. He delivered a diligent backcheck during Period 1, almost appearing as if he was trying to impress Coach John Tortorella by being responsible to the point of nearly taking a pawing penalty were the zebra anyone else by Don Van Massenhoven. Then Nash disappeared in the second only to emerge with a Kovalchuk-esque game-tying beebee with mere seconds to go in regulation.
That said, MSG Cognoscenti no longer must fret which of their favorite Rangers will be sacrificed to acquire the Columbus superstar. It is almost assured the athlete himself heard The World's Most Arrogant Arena chant "We don't want you" to the tune of "Let's Go Ran-gers!" during the final frame and is removing Penn Plaza from his list of approved destinations.
"Oh yes, we do!" responded Section 409 when it was too late.
The Rangers are 38-14-5 for 81 points, three in back of the Detroit Red Wings Home Game Winning Machine for the Presidents' Trophy. Defensively, they're the best team in the East by a country mile (1.93 GAA). Offensively, they're 11th in the NHL in goals scored at 2.73.
In a vacuum, Nash makes them a better team. But these trades aren't made in a vacuum, and they aren't made with a collection of spare parts and prospects. Not with other teams in the bidding that are willing to ante up (in theory) a Jack Johnson or a James van Riemsdyk.
The lesson learned from 1994 is that you deal from strength and address your weaknesses with the focus on the Stanley Cup. That latter point is the key: Focus on the Stanley Cup. Dramatic changes involving roster players can happen when the book on this season is closed.
This might be the most Pollyanna question asked in the Nash saga involving the Rangers, but here goes: Would Sather adding Nash to the roster be a tribute or an insult to the players that have achieved so much this year on their own?