The 2012 NHL trade deadline just got a whole lot more interesting.
Last night, RDS (TSN's French language sister station) reporter Renaud Lavoie reported that Columbus Blue Jacket franchise player Rick Nash "is on the market."
This morning, Columbus Dispatch reporter Aaron Portzline wrote on his blog that "for the first time, (the Blue Jackets) are willing to listen to offers for captain Rick Nash."
While it's easy, and sometime necessary, to get hung on precise terminology on a story like this one -- the differences between "on the market" as opposed to "listening to offers" as opposed to "being shopped" -- here's the bottom line:
Last week, in no uncertain terms, NHL teams were told Nash was not available and this week, he is. For the right team, anyway.
Less than two weeks to the NHL trade deadline, that is nothing less than a seismic shift.
That doesn't mean he'll necessarily be traded by the deadline but it does mean there has been a significant change in his status from last week to this week.
And while sources have confirmed to TSN what Lavoie and Portzline respectively reported in the last 12 hours, the real story is this:
None of this would or could be happening if Rick Nash didn't want it to happen.
As one source asked rhetorically, "How does a player with a No Movement Clause end up in trade talk?"
Easy answer to that one: because he's permitted it.
Understand this, with a player of Nash's stature -- a first overall draft pick, the face and identity of the Blue Jackets' franchise, a world-class talent and Canadian Olympian with an outstanding international hockey resume -- there is no chance that Columbus general manager Scott Howson would get involved in any trade talk for Nash without the player's blessing.
He couldn't. It would be worse than bad form.
For any GM to even entertain offers on a star player with a no-move clause without that player's tacit approval is a cardinal sin. There are few secrets in this game and if a GM "shopped" or "listened" to offers on a NMC star it's only a matter of time until the word filters back to the player and that would represent a huge violation of trust between the player and the organization.
So for Howson to have discussions with any team, and for other NHL teams to know the Jackets are to some degree open for business on Nash, one must conclude that Nash is fully on board with whatever it is that is happening right now.
That doesn't necessarily means he's asked for a trade or that he's unequivocally stated he wants to escape from the chronic losing in Columbus. But he's said something and whether he initiated it -- which is the usual protocol in these instances -- or the Blue Jackets broached the subject with him and he merely responded to them, the inescapable conclusion is Howson's actions thus far have the Rick Nash seal of approval.
This story wouldn't have gotten to the public domain if that weren't true.
These things are always dicey. No franchise player wants to be perceived as wanting to jump ship. Just because the Blue Jackets are listening to offers doesn't mean a deal gets done and Nash may have to remain in Columbus.
And this story leaking out as it has further complicates things for Nash and the Blue Jackets.
One would imagine that Nash has an extremely limited list of destinations he would deem suitable. Standard protocol in this situation would be for the player to give the GM the greenlight to deal only with a select few clubs. But with the news breaking that Nash may be available for trade, Howson's phone will light up like a Christmas tree. About half the teams in the league would have interest in trying to secure this player, but there are probably only a handful, or less, that interest Nash.
Make no mistake, though, by virtue of his NMC, Nash is totally driving the bus on this. He effectively can dictate how many teams are legitimately in the hunt for his services and ultimately which one is his final destination. Or, at any time he sees fit, he can end the process if he's uncomfortable with it in any regard.
Ultimately, it's in his hands and his hands alone.