Nash to Leafs? Dream on

Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash celebrates a goal against the Flames in Calgary, Alta., Dec. 1,...

Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash celebrates a goal against the Flames in Calgary, Alta., Dec. 1, 2011. (TODD KOROL/Reuters)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:52 PM ET

CALGARY - Rick Nash is a Brampton kid who grew up watching the Maple Leafs.

If you believe some of the wild conclusions blowing up the Twitter world and the World Wide Web on Tuesday, those facts alone mean the five-time all-star is a sure bet to be wearing blue-and-white by the time the Feb. 27 trade deadline rolls around.

Sure, the Leafs are interested. But it will take a lot more than hometown sentimentality to pull this one off.

Admittedly, the Leafs brass is intrigued. While Nash, 27, might not be the big centre the team has sought ever since Mats Sundin left town, he arguably is, along with Corey Perry, the top power forward in the league and would very much solve a need in the team's top six.

Of course, there are 29 other teams out there who could make that same statement.

As Leafs general manager Brian Burke patrolled the bowels of the Saddledome after the team's morning skate on Tuesday, he admitted being "frustrated" by the lack of activity or, for that matter, the usual serious trade talk to date, details which often in the past have led to him pulling off deals weeks before the deadline.

Burke prefers to pull the trigger well in advance, as witnessed by the 2010 trade that brought Dion Phaneuf to Toronto from Calgary almost a month before the deadline.

Now, with Nash-mania hitting the fan on Tuesday, he'll likely join the bidding war in the next two weeks, with the price probably going higher and higher with each passing day.

Expect the Leafs to be in the hunt. The opportunity to land a premiere player like Nash should always be explored, if not pursued.

At the same time, there are a number of factors that come into play here.

1) Nash has a no-movement clause in his contract. If he decides to waive it, he will determine where he ends up. In the end, it is Nash who is driving the bus. Whether he wants to guide it north to his native Ontario, well, only he knows for sure.

2) Nash is in the second year of an eight-year, $62.4 million US contract, with an annual cap hit of $7.8 million. Only a certain number of teams could afford to carry that salary, The Leafs already are up against the cap, so some creative housekeeping would be needed to fit him in.

3) According to the Columbus Dispatch, the Blue Jackets are not actively shopping Nash but are open to considering the right deal, something that wasn't even on the radar not so long ago. If he does go, the price will be huge -- a lot higher than, say, the suggestion we spotted on Twitter of James Reimer and a first-round pick.

Think about it, people. If the cost of getting Phil Kessel was two first rounders and a second round pick, what kind of lucrative cache of draft choices, prospects and players would Nash net, especially near the deadline when asking prices always are inflated?

Grabovski. Schenn. Kadri. Reimer. Gunnarsson. The list of names you'll hear in the rumour mill in the coming days will be endless.

With about $7 million of cap space heading into the deadline, many insiders feel the New York Rangers would be a logical fit. As first reported by QMI's Bruce Garrioch this past weekend, "the word is the Blue Jackets may demand C Brandon Dubinsky, prospect C Chris Kreider from Boston College and a No. 1 pick. Kreider was New York's No. 1 pick in the 2009 NHL draft."

With the Dispatch indicating on Tuesday that the Jackets would be for the "first time" willing to listen to offers for the services of the stud winger in the days leading up to the Feb. 27 deadline, Nash will be the apple of many a team's eye in the next two weeks.

But there are no guarantees that he'll even be moved. And even if he is, it will take a lot more than just the lure of returning to southern Ontario to get him into a Leafs jersey.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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