TORONTO - When he’s old and grey, Rick Nash might still be getting razzed by his hometown buddies for not putting himself in a position to become a Toronto Maple Leaf.
The Brampton native almost can hear the questions now.
Why didn’t you allow your contract to run out with the Blue Jackets so you could have signed with the beloved Leafs?
Why, instead, did you ink an eight-year, $62.4-million US extension in the summer of 2009, thereby squashing any chance of one day wearing blue and white?
“Oh ya, I don’t think I’ll ever hear the end of it,” Nash laughed during a phone interview from Columbus on Wednesday. “My friends already have been bugging me about it.
“That’s going to happen. When you grow up in the Toronto area, it’s all about the Leafs. But Columbus is a great city and I just felt it has been the perfect fit for me.”
Prior to the Nash extension, FAN 590/Sportsnet hockey analyst Doug MacLean, who, in his former life as the Blue Jackets GM actually drafted Nash first overall in 2002, remained his biggest booster and said the Leafs should be extremely proactive if and when Nash became available on the free agent market.
By signing long-term with Columbus, that possibility was crushed.
Nash will be playing at the Air Canada Centre against the Leafs on Thursday for the first time since agreeing to his new deal. He’s in the first year of his long-term pact, which includes a five-year no-movement clause followed by three years with a limited no-trade clause.
The Jackets, 18-15-3, find themselves four points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“When we lose, we seem to lose huge,” Nash said. “But there have been enough signs that we can be a successful team.”