Rick Nash: Down To The Wire

By Aaron Vickers

Rick Nash: Down To The Wire

Everyone knows Rick Nash is a hockey player, but how many were aware that he also plays a wicked game of hardball? That would be one thing that Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Doug MacLean is learning. The first overall pick from the 2002 NHL Entry Draft remains unsigned, as the team edges closer and closer to the beginning of the season.

There have been several messages sent between both the Blue Jackets Camp and Team Rick Nash. From the moment MacLean announced that Rick Nash would be the first overall selection in the Entry Draft, he’s pronounced Nash a member of the 2002-03 Columbus Blue Jackets. A rather bold statement made by MacLean, who couldn’t possibly foresee to the rookie or training camps in late August and early September. However, the contract ‘dispute’ has been the only stumbling block in this plan so far. Rick Nash may only be 18, but understands how the off-ice game is played.

After seeing fellow prospect Kiel McLeod returned to his junior team the Kelowna Rockets, over the same thing, a contract struggle. McLeod and McLean couldn’t reach an agreement, and with MacLean under no pressure to secure the services of Kiel for the upcoming season, he was returned for his final junior season. Upon seeing this, Rick Nash immediately proclaimed that irregardless of the decision, or lack there of, by Columbus brass, he would welcome the opportunity should he be returned to his junior club, the London Knights. In a post-game interview, Nash stated that if a contract were not in the cards for him this season, he’d hold no grudges going back to junior.

Rick Nash realizes that, while Kiel McLeod being returned to the Kelowna Rockets is not major news for Blue Jackets fans, however he does realize that Doug MacLean furiously professed that Nash would be in the line-up for this coming season. Nash also has one more thing going for him as well. Rick Nash has been the most impressive player on the ice for Columbus throughout the preseason. The score-sheet has profusely shown the number 61 time and time again.

Through seven games, of which he has suited up in four, Nash leads all Columbus skaters in points, with six. Included in those six points are three goals, which puts him in a tie for the team lead, with former Syracuse Crunch forward Andrei Nedorost (who seems to have locked up a spot of his own). At times the former London Knight has looked dominating, and has yet to show an ounce of hesitation in his pro game, especially after the efforts of several Nashville Predator players welcoming him into the league the hard way earlier in the preseason.

With his play at the pro level, Nash has bounced the ball into MacLean’s court. From a public relations standpoint, to not sign Rick Nash given his performance in the pre-season is certainly unacceptable, especially from the casual hockey fan in Columbus who may begin to follow the Jackets after hearing of the rookie phenom. Jacket fans demanded Rick Nash before the 2002 Entry Draft, and they’ll demand him now.