Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas kicked off his trade deadline, acquiring forward Riley Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a conditional seventh-round draft pick in 2022.
The seventh-round draft pick becomes a sixth if Nash plays in 25% of Maple Leafs’ playoff games according to Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun. He signed a three-year deal with the Blue Jackets back in 2018 and was recently placed on long term injured reserve as he’s out for four to six weeks due to a sprained knee. A lot of work had to be done in order to make sure that he fit under he Maple Leafs cap before being placed on long term injured reserve.
Nash played in 37 games while registering two goals and seven points with the Blue Jackets this season. His career best came back in 2017-18 with the Bruins as he had 15 goals and 41 points.
Why Make This Deal?
On the surface, acquiring a player on LTIR doesn’t seem to make sense considering that Nash won’t return until the playoffs begin. Making this move is smart as it gives the Maple Leafs some cap flexibitility. Nash has a cap hit of $2.75 million and is an unrestricted free agent when the season is over. The Maple Leafs can use his contract to get extra cap space in addition to the $1.7 million they had before the deal. This gives Dubas the ability to possibly make another move before deadline day.
When the playoffs come around and Nash is taken off LTIR, it won’t affect the Maple Leafs financial situation as there is no salary cap in the playoffs. This is known as the Patrick Kane Loophole as the Chicago Blackhawks used the exact same method when Patrick Kane was injured in 2015. Kane returned and was able to help the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup that season.
Nash Adds Great Depth to Roster
Nash is a very reliable depth player and would be a useful addition if the Maple Leafs are looking to make a deep playoff run. His leadership presence and experience in the postseason could benefit the Maple Leafs and provide great consistency. He has really great speed and has the drive to engage effectively on the forecheck, while also contributing to the team’s penalty kill. He averages just over a minute of short-handed time on ice per game.
Nash would probably slot in on the fourth line, improving their centre depth. He is very effective defensively as he’s able to shut down plays in his own end. An aspect that has become a strength for the Maple Leafs this season. At the moment Pierre Engvall is the fourth line centre and could very well be out of the lineup when Nash returns for the playoffs. Nash also has the ability to play the wing if they choose to keep Engvall in.
While another move could be in the works, this is a great addition for Dubas and the Maple Leafs.
Salary Cap information from Cap Friendly.