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Rick Nash, Scott Howson, and the CBA Battle

Oh look, it's Rick Nash with his back turned to the fans who want him to stay. Hmmmmmmmm.
Oh look, it's Rick Nash with his back turned to the fans who want him to stay. Hmmmmmmmm.

This morning's Quick Hits brought up an interesting topic of conversation about Rick Nash, thanks to this article from SB Nation's Travis Hughes about the sky-high price for the Columbus winger and the reasons why Howson hasn't budged from his bargaining position.

You understand why Scott Howson is making such Larger Than Life demands in any Rick Nash trade. He'll probably lose his job otherwise. But the reality is that Nash is more valuable in Columbus, to the organization that crafted its identity and local image around him, than he is to any other team in the league.

Commenter jabopere got the ball rolling with a simple question:

So what happens if nobody will agree to Howson's terms for a Nash trade?

The simple answer is that Nash will remain a Blue Jacket and will be expected to suck it up and play well for the team that wanted to build its franchise around him. But, under the surface of all the rumors, innuendo, acceptable team lists, and finger-pointing, there's a bit of an unspoken battle going on here which may very well find its way into the larger negotiations between the league and its players right now. What good is a no-trade clause when the player wants out?

Rick Nash isn't the first big-name scorer to demand that he be traded to a different city where he'll like being paid millions to do his job more. He's likely not going to be the last. There are always going to be times when the right fit just doesn't work out for a player and his organization and it becomes time to move on. Such seems the time with Rick Nash in Columbus.

From the stories told by the media, Rick Nash asked the team to trade him around January of 2012. While Howson was trying to work out a deal, the regular media leaks got out about how he would be in play up to the trade deadline. The news spread like wildfire until it died down at the passing of the deadline with Nash still a Blue jacket.

Or, no. It didn't die down. Instead what happened was a whole lot of people wondering why the Jackets were shopping Nash and why they couldn't get a deal done. Under that pressure, GM Scott Howson either came clean or threw his star winger under the bus (depending on who you asked), and revealed that it was Nash who had requested the trade.

Flash forward to this summer and we're still discussing Nash. Mostly people are talking about what an insane price Scott Howson is asking and which teams Nash finds "acceptable" for a destination.

The question is why? Why does Rick Nash, the guy who put his team in this bind demanded to escape the bind the Jackets were in also get to pick his destination?

The simple answer is that Scott Howson was foolish enough to give his franchise player a no-trade clause when he also gave him an 8-year, $62 million contract. There was nothing requiring Howson to give him this and perhaps a bit of forethought forces this entire divorce process between Nash and Columbus to happen sooner and in a situation where the Jackets could have been better off for it.

While that's true, it's not Scott Howson who wants to change the terms of Nash's contract and it's not the Blue Jackets who necessarily want to be rid of Nash. While the NHLPA is not likely to budge on the grounds of guaranteed contracts (something the NHL would love to be rid of), there's probably less-solid ground to stand on when it comes to invoking contract guarantees while demanding the opposite of what the guarantee protects.

When Dany Heatley demanded a trade out of Ottawa in 2009 and then invoked his no-trade clause to block a move that would have sent him to Edmonton, it was more than just fans in those two cities which felt Heatley had broken some sort of code. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly commented that there were grounds for a grievance created by Dany Heatley's trade demands in whether that demand compromised the no-trade clause in his contract.

In the end, Rick Nash may retain the right to pick-and-choose which club he goes to by selectively enforcing his own no-trade clause, but he very well could be the last NHLer to enjoy that ability. The league has a good argument to build off if it comes to players who want to be traded, but also want to be selective about their destinations. It may not be long before a player with a NTC demanding to be traded will no longer be allowed to have a list of acceptable and unacceptable teams.