With less than 48 hours to go before the Nashville Predators' deadline to match the Flyers' offer sheet to Shea Weber, the only substantive that has happened in the last day has been the New York Rangers' acquisition of Rick Nash in exchange for two role players (Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov), a defense prospect (Tim Erixon) and draft picks.
There is no question that the Rangers got what they wanted in this trade. Glen Sather never wavered from previous offers, none of which included any of the current corps of NHL starting defensemen or either of young forwards Derek Stepan or Chris Kreider. I thought there would be no way the Rangers would also able to land Nash without even including Carl Hagelin as well as Anisimov, but they did.
Obviously, the 23-year-old Anisimov is the biggest forward key in the deal for Columbus. The big 24-year-old center has shown flashes of being a fine two-way player with more offensive punch than he's been able to display under the John Tortorella regime. But Anisimov was unlikely to regularly play above the third line in New York.
The Flyers will be glad that Dubinsky is out of New York and out of the Eastern Conference entirely. The agitating forward is one of the NHL most hated players among opponents, and Philly has had more than its share of run-ins with him. A two-time 20-goal scorer who has enjoyed offensive success against the Flyers over the years, Dubinsky had an awful offensive year in 2011-12 (dropping from 54 to 34 points and 24 to 10 goals compared to the previous season).
The Rangers might not be quite as nasty to play against next year with both Dubinsky and Brandon Prust gone. They've brought in former Flyers winger Arron Asham, but they've still lost a bit in the agitation and forechecking department. Asham can still sometimes be effective in both areas, and is a fine pound-for-pound fighter, but he's always been rather inconsistent throughout his NHL career.
Erixon, whose agents convinced him to force his way out of Calgary to come to the Rangers, has upside as an above-average NHL puck mover who can receive secondary power play time. But with so many good young defensemen already above him on the Rangers' depth chart, he was expendable in a package deal for a top-line forward.
The acquisition of Nash offsets the absence of Marian Gaborik for the first-half of the season. Over the long run, Nash adds high-caliber scoring ability to a team that struggled to score at times in the postseason.
Make no mistake, the Flyers' desire to land Shea Weber has only increased since yesterday. Per Philadelphia Inquirer beat writer Sam Carchidi, there has apparently not been much frontline communication going on between the Flyers and Predators since the offer sheet, nor have the Predators been in contact with the Weber camp at all. What that means is open to interpretation and speculation.
Yesterday, TSN's Darren Dreger said that the sense he gets from around the NHL is that the Predators cannot/will not match the offer sheet. Then again, Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis was on local radio yesterday defending himself for not signing Weber to an offer sheet because it's his opinion the Preds are forced to match. He also said Nashville was largely unwilling to discuss any sort of a feasible trade, despite the team's inability to get Weber signed long-term.
Of course, it could be argued that Gillis' comments were rather self-serving and perhaps even disingenuous. But the main point here is that opinions on the outcome of the Weber saga are still over the map in the hockey world.
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