One of the ongoing complications in the Rick Nash trade saga has been the simultaneous availability of Anaheim Ducks left wing Bobby Ryan.
It's understandable that Ryan, who has been discussed as a trade possibility since the end of the season, would be seen as an attractive alternative to the Columbus Blue Jackets winger. At 25 years of age, the former No. 2 overall draft pick had 31 goals and 26 assists in the 2011-12 season, compared to 30 goals and 29 assists for the 28-year-old Blue Jackets winger. He may not have five consecutive seasons with 30 or more goals as Nash does - only four other players do - but he does have four in a row. He also comes with an annual salary cap hit of $5.1 million, compared to Nash's $7.8 million. Given all those factors, Ryan might even be a more attractive option than Nash, so his availability does gum things up for Columbus general manager Scott Howson, who hasn't exactly helped his own cause by looking for players like Hurricanes center Jeff Skinner and Sharks pviot Logan Couture.
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Here's the question, though: given that Ryan is being regarded as "Plan B" for teams trying to get Nash, what's the likelihood that he actually goes first?
Just because Nash has been more public about his desire to leave Columbus - and because the Ducks' lack of success is more of a recent development than the Blue Jackets' woes - doesn't mean that Anaheim general manager Bob Murray is going to take just any deal for Ryan. In fact, he has less urgency, and while that may not mean he'll make the kinds of demands that Howson is making - because honestly, no one gives up a comparable player at a younger age in this kind of trade - it does mean that he'll expect fair value for Ryan.
There are two ways this works out. In one scenario, Howson's trade demands turn off the possible suitors, who then shift their focus to Anaheim and Ryan. Ryan goes in a good hockey trade, and Howson is left continuing to try to get what he wants for Nash. On the other hand, a team like the New York Rangers could give Howson what he's looking for - after all, it's not that ridiculous from their perspective - and rivals that missed out, like the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins, look to keep pace by bringing in Ryan.
It could really go either way, but at this point, expect Ryan to go first. Howson is determined to make a trade that truly improves his team - either now or later - and there just don't seem to be trading partners willing to give in to what Howson wants. Murray is going to want a good offer, too, but it seems like he's more realistic, by default if nothing else.