Senators push for Nash

Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates up to a face off against the Phoenix Coyotes during...

Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates up to a face off against the Phoenix Coyotes during NHL game at Jobing.com Arena on April 3, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP)

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:11 PM ET

PITTSBURGH - The Senators still want Rick Nash. But does he want them?

As teams gathered here for this weekend's NHL entry draft, there was talk that perhaps the lure of playing with his told Team Canada buddy Jason Spezza could sway the Columbus Blue Jackets sniper into putting Ottawa on the list of teams to which he'd accept a trade.

The general feeling is the two would be a good fit. It's also believed that while Nash's original list was short, the New York Rangers, San Jose Sharks, Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes and Senators are the clubs trying hardest to land the two-time 40-goal scorer.

The Senators, it's believed, remain alive in the Nash Sweepstakes with an offer of Mika Zibanejad, Nick Foligno and Ben Bishop. To complete the four-part return the Blue Jackets are said to be looking for, the Senators are also open to sweetening the pot with the inclusion of their first round draft pick.

"We have talked to them about the availability of Nash. We have said we have interest," assistant GM Tim Murray stated Thursday. "With the prospects we have, if we decided to jump in full bore, I think we have as good a package as anybody."

Nash's contract still has six years left and carries a $7.8 million annual cap hit, but the Senators have the room, and GM Bryan Murray apparently has the blessing of Eugene Melnyk, or he wouldn't have bothered calling the Blue Jackets in the first place.

Meanwhile, there's also the belief that No. 1 ranked Sarnia winger Nail Yakupov might fall to the Montreal Canadiens, who have the third pick in Friday's first round. Picking first are the Edmonton Oilers, who have plenty of young offensive talent but lack blue liners and are said to be especially high on Everett defenceman Ryan Murray. The Columbus Blue Jackets have the second pick, but should be wary of going down the road with another Russian first pick after busts Nikita Filatov (2008) and Nikolai Zherdev (2003). The Blue Jackets are apparently sweet on Red Deer defenceman Mathew Dumba, who plays with the flair of an Erik Karlsson.

Whatever team takes Yakupov runs the risk of having a KHL team making him an offer he can't refuse.

The Senators could get the best player at his position with pick 15 if they want to go with Belleville goalie Malcolm Subban, but it would be a gamble. If a guy projected to be a Top 4 defenceman or a Top 6 forward doesn't meet expectations, he generally winds up with a lesser role but still plays. If a young goalie doesn't win the No. 1 job, he's a minor leaguer.

While Bryan Murray travelled from Las Vegas Thursday, his staff went over the list of options again. A final meeting with Murray is scheduled for Friday morning.

"We're ready," said Tim Murray. "It looks like the draft can go a couple of different ways, but I think we're ready for whichever way it goes."

Pointing out that the Senators are "at the mercy of 14 other teams", Murray maintained they want to take the best player available, but hinted that the hope is to get a defenceman with its first round pick.

"You know we have certain needs, but those needs change," he said. "We had what we thought was a ton of defenceman, and we make the (David) Rundblad for (Kyle) Turris deal and now we're not sure if we have enough defenceman. That's just the cycle of the game."

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


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