The Boston Bruins bolstered their chances of contending for the Stanley Cup with a bold move, acquiring Rick Nash from the New York Rangers a day before the NHL trade deadline.
“Our players have made a push and I wanted to inch that along if we could and reward it in a way,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said.
Boston added the veteran – one of the best available – in a market filled with players in the last season of their contracts and put him in the lineup Sunday night against the Buffalo Sabres.
Nash, 33, had 18 goals and 10 assists this season with the Rangers and his first point with the Bruins will be No. 800 in his career. Perhaps most importantly for Boston, the 6-foot-4, 211-pound winger adds much-needed size up front and makes its second line even more formidable.
“I think it sends a message that management feels that we're a real good hockey team and he's going to make us better,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Where that leads, you can only speculate, and I don't want to go there now because it's not even March.”
Boston wasn't done adding to its roster by signing Brian Gionta to a one-year $700,000 contract. Gionta returns for a 16th NHL season after serving as captain of the U.S. Olympic team, which was eliminated following a loss to the Czech Republic in the quarterfinal round at the Pyeongchang Winter Games on Tuesday.
NHL teams, both buyers and sellers, have until 3 p.m. today to make a deal.
Teams toward the top of the standings, or on the bubble, may add a veteran with an expiring contract in exchange for prospects and picks. Franchises out of the playoff race are hoping to get anything they can to potentially help their future in exchange for players they may not re-sign in the summer.
“The standings dictate who the buyers and sellers are at the trade deadline,” said Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, whose team will probably miss the playoffs for a second straight year.
The Rangers, without a doubt, are rebuilding. They're in eighth, and last, place in the Metropolitan Division with slim chances of extending their postseason streak to eight years.
Nash didn't fit into New York's plans as he played out the final season of an eight-year deal for $62.4 million he signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets. And, the franchise got a return for its asset instead of letting him go for nothing as an unrestricted free agent in July.
The Rangers received Boston's first-round pick this year along with forwards Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey, defenseman Ryan Lindgren and a seventh-round pick next year.