On Monday afternoon, Columbus Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson called Rick Nash and told him he wouldn't be dealt before the NHL Trade Deadline passed. That he made an honest effort to move Nash and get the proper return for the star winger.
But the honesty wouldn't end there — no sir, it would not.
Howson also informed Nash that he would be revealing publicly for the first time that it was Nash, rather than team management, that sought a trade. That the Jackets' team captain requested a trade in "mid- or late January," and set the wheels in motion for his departure.
"It's the right thing to do. It's the truthful thing to do," said Howson of the revelation.
It was also the deliciously spiteful thing to do.
After the NHL Trade Deadline, Howson spoke to the media and revealed Nash's request:
"With respect to Rick Nash, he approached us and asked us to consider trading him. We agreed to accommodate his request as long as we could get a deal that would provide us with cornerstone pieces to help us to compete for a Stanley Cup championship in the coming years. It did not happen by 3 o'clock today. This is too important to our franchise and our fans to do a deal that is not in our best interests."
Over the weekend, Nash's agent Joe Resnick went to TSN and Sportsnet to remind the public that Nash would not alter his list of acceptable teams next summer if he wasn't moved at the deadline. This statement was made under the auspices that it was ownership and management that approached Nash to move him.
Howson had an agent trying to force a trade that the team agreed to make happen for a disgruntled star. So the Blue Jackets GM did two things at the 2012 Trade Deadline:
1. He didn't blink on his asking price for Nash. Even as the deadline approached, Howson wasn't moving off his demands.
"The price was high. I don't apologize for that. It had to be high," he said.
"It's high, that's all I'm going to say."
2. He decided to go public with Nash's trade demand. Maybe the initial misdirection was a negotiating ploy, so teams didn't approach the Jackets thinking they weren't the instigators on this one. Or maybe conditions changed that warranted this sudden candor from Howson — perhaps the agent speaking out, perhaps a trade vetoed by Nash.
As I said earlier, I had no sympathy for Nash when it was management pushing for a deal, less so now that he's the catalyst. Howson had a price. It wasn't met. He believes that can change in the summer, when teams have more cap wiggle room and are more willing to trade pieces from their roster.
As for Nash broadening the scope of the Jackets' trading partners: "Not sure," said Howson. "His preferences, as far as I know, are going to stay the same."
Between now and then … this will get ugly.
The fans that held "Please Don't Go Rick" signs at Columbus games now understand it was their captain that abandoned ship. The player that thought his liberation was a few phone calls away is now stuck in hockey limbo until the summer, his list of teams likely dwindled — unless his demands have changed; how about "I'll go to Nashville as long as Scott Howson is turfed, Mr. O'Connell"?
For the GM, it's a moment saturated in honesty, frustration, spite, fortitude and doom. Nash forced his hand; he responded with middle fingers raised.
It may not be the best thing for the GM, the player, the team, the fans or the trade market — but here's to someone in professional sports allowing their aggravation to manifest in "the truthful thing to do."
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