So yesterday afternoon I was up at the MSG Training Center getting set to chat with Brian Boyle, who was in town making an appearance at the Rangers Summer Youth Camp. As Boyle was finishing up signing autographs for a group of youngsters by the rink, I was on the phone with my boss, who was asking my exact whereabouts for the remainder of the day.
When you are a reporter for a professional sports team's own web site, as I am, and your boss wants to know your precise availability for a certain time period it's a pretty clear signal that something is going down and you had better be ready to report some news. I know this, and Brian Boyle was able to pick up on this, as well, as he listened in on my conversation.
As soon as Boyle signed the last autograph he jumped up, told me he'd be right back, and promptly went to find his cell phone to find out what was going on, and then to call his agent.
"You never know, so I was just making sure I wasn't going anywhere," a relieved Boyle said of the call to his agent.
After chatting about the trade and a few other topics with the big center, I was off to report on the Rangers latest blockbuster move---their third in the past four summers. Rick Nash, finally, coming to Broadway after a long and patient hunt by Glen Sather. And Brandon Dubinsky, Artem, Anisimov, Tim Erixon, and a first rounder heading to Columbus.
Just as the signing of Marian Gaborik in July of 2009 and Brad Richards last summer moved the Rangers steps closer to the Stanley Cup, so, too, does yesterday's acquisition of Nash, a stud who has scored 40 goals twice and has reached 30 or more in seven of the past eight seasons.
"Management obviously knew what we needed, help in scoring, and they addressed it in Nash, who is an elite player," Michael Del Zotto told me this morning. "If you go down the list of all the elite players on our team, putting (Nash) out there with everyone else we already have is only going to make us more dangerous. Management has certainly given us another major weapon, for sure."
A weapon to say the least. Nash gives a consistent effort night-in and night-out---certinaly a must under John Tortorella, has a history of staying healthy and remaining in the lineup, and has scored 30 goals on a regular basis despite being pretty much the lone marked man in Columbus. Word has always been that Nash is a good guy in the dressing room and a strong---if not overly vocal---leader, as well.
He also helps shore up the one area in which the Rangers seemed to be lacking coming out of this past season and into next: experienced and reliable goal scorers other than Marian Gaborik.
"I think once (Marian Gaborik) gets healthy and gets together with Nash, we've got some pretty good offensive players now," Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather said last night. "This changes the complexion of our team. It's not going to change how we play, but his ability---he's a world class player."
Part of the fun now is hypothesizing on line combinations for next season. Load up with Nash-Richards-Gaborik on an elite No. 1 line, with, say, young speedsters Chris Kreider and Carl Hagelin flanking Derek Stepan? Not a bad start. Or maybe Nash, Stepan, and Ryan Callahan form a nice threesome?
And how about a Rangers power play---which struggled so mightily a year ago---featuring a top five of Nash, Richards, Gaborik, Callahan, and Del Zotto? Or work Stepan into that mix. Or maybe Kreider. Or maybe now have two pretty solid and talented units.
It's all so very enticing when your team adds a piece like Rick Nash to the puzzle.
"The Rangers are one of the top teams in the league," said Nash yesterday. "The players they have there are pretty impressive from the goaltending to the defense and on up. I'm happy to be a part of the organization and part of the whole city."
I do need to add a few thoughts about the departures of Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, and Tim Erixon.
Dubi was a true-blue Ranger, no doubt about it. He passionately loved being a Ranger, showed much appreciation for The Garden Faithful, and gave an honest effort on a consistent basis. Dubi---along with the likes of Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi, and Marc Staal---also represented the first-wave of Young Core players the Rangers have built around. The fans loved him and will miss him, for sure. And I think he will put last year's miserable offensive season behind him and perform much better in the coming year---an opinion shared by many within the Rangers organization and outside of it.
As for Artie, there might not have been a nicer guy in that Rangers dressing room last year, and that is saying a mouthful considering what an amazing group Glen Sather and John Tortorella had assembled. It is also a testement to Artie that I know what a smart, funny, and friendly person he is because he could barely speak a lick of English his rookie season three years ago---relying on Enver Lisin at every turn for friendship and a translator. But he worked diligently on learning the English language, eventually becoming a go-to in the locker room for me, a place to talk history, family values, Brian Boyle's Boston accent, and sometimes even hockey. I will miss Artie very much.
And Erixon---a really good, bright kid---has a nice future ahead of him. A little more upper body strength and he is set to compete for a top-six NHL defense spot, for sure.
Always sad to say goodbye in this business, for sure. But then again, tomorrow we'll be able to say our first Hello to Rick Nash, who will be in town for the first time as a Blueshirt. Full coverage of Nash's visit to New York on Wednesday will be right here on BlueshirtsUnited.com.
Jim Cerny--July 24, 2012