Nash's time with Jackets ticking away

Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash celebrates a goal against the Sharks with teammates at Nationwide...

Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash celebrates a goal against the Sharks with teammates at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, Jan. 14, 2012. (GREGORY SHAMUS/Getty Images/AFP)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:31 PM ET

SUNRISE, FLA. - It seems clear now, Rick Nash's future with the Columbus Blue Jackets is measured at the very least in hours and, at the most, a few more months.

As the clock ticks down towards Monday's 3 p.m. NHL trade deadline, the best talk remains focused on whether Nash will go by then or at the draft in June.

That he will be moved is inevitable now.

Even here where the Montreal Canadiens blew a 2-0 lead and lost to the Panthers 4-2, the talk in the pressbox among scouts and NHL executives was about Nash and if and where he could be moved by the deadline.

Most of the talk was about what teams in the sweepstakes weren't willing to give up rather than what they were willing to part with to land the most interesting name on the market.

Talk Sunday was two of the earliest rumoured suitors, the New York Rangers and the San Jose Sharks, were pulling back because they were unwilling to meet the Columbus Blue Jackets' understandably high demands for Nash.

But could that open the door for a team under the "tradar," say a team like the suitably named Nashville Predators, to get into the fray?

A couple of scouts insist the Predators will be a team that could make the trade deadline interesting. They need to prove to defenceman Ryan Suter they have the grits to add something at the deadline. That would improve their chances in the playoffs and their chances of keeping Suter, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

"(The Predators) are really trying to make a big move so they can show Suter they want to win," said one scout. "I think a guy like Nash is out because then I don't think they can sign Suter, too, but a rental makes sense for them. They have a lot of cap room."

But there are rumblings Nashville GM David Poile will stay on the Nash case and offer a package that the Jackets might want to take to Nash, whose list of acceptable landings spots -- supposedly the usual suspects of the Rangers, Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings and Toronto Maple Leafs -- doesn't include Nashville at this point.

But things got interesting when Nash's agent, Joe Resnick, told TSN's Bob McKenzie the Nash camp was hopeful a deal could be done by Monday's deadline.

If the Nashville offer is the best one on the table and meets the Jackets' demands, do they take the deal to the Nash camp and see if he's willing to approve it and make the inevitable move a reality now?

Or do they wait for the summer, when all the teams on Nash's list of acceptable destinations will have more cap flexibility and a willingness to part with roster players? Right now, teams like the Rangers and Sharks don't want to part with key pieces who are helping them win now and hopefully into June.

"Teams at the top of the standings are leery about affecting their chemistry right now," said one executive, "but teams that aren't, maybe like the Sharks, are maybe trying to change it, so that could bring them into the mix."

The Predators have been rumoured to be offering up a package that could include forward Colin Wilson, defenceman Ryan Ellis, another prospect and a first-round draft pick.

A lot of the talk Sunday was about what teams weren't ready to give up for Nash rather than what they were.

The New York Rangers are reticent to part with any combination of defenceman Michael Del Zotto or Ryan McDonagh or forward Derek Stepan, along with another prospect and pick.

The sticking point for the Sharks is the apparent Jackets' interest in having Logan Couture be a part of any deal for Nash.

"That's not going to happen," one source told the QMI Agency.

We'll see.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @CJ_Stevenson


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