By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Even after a quiet postseason, the Bruins have clearly not closed the door on a potential Rick Nash return.
Speaking after yesterday's draft combine in Buffalo, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney touched on Nash, set to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his NHL career this summer, and how he feels moving about him forward.
"Rick – we’re going to have follow up conversations this week. I plan to talk to [Nash's camp] again and have a, hopefully, have a clear understanding of where [his playing future] necessarily lands," Sweeney offered. "Rick indicated when he came to Boston that he was excited about the opportunity. He wants to win. He wants an opportunity to win. He felt badly, and certainly he’s not responsible for this, because he got injured. It took away a little juice from him."
Absent for the final 12 games of the regular season due to a concussion suffered on a high hit from the Bolts' Cedric Paquette in a Mar. 17 win over Tampa Bay, the 33-year-old Nash worked on his own for close to a month before he returned (with a tinted visor) in the postseason, where he contributed three goals and five points on 39 shots on goal in 12 playoff games.
It wasn't the easiest of transitions for Nash, according to Sweeney.
"He missed time coming down the stretch and jumping right into the playoffs. He wasn’t able to play a game and neither was Riley [Nash]," Sweeney recalled. "It had an effect – they had pockets of their game where they played really well, and we knew that – but it was a big part of what our team was in terms of the depth top to bottom. It may or may not have affected what the result was, but it’s not – they’re not really to be held at fault for that. They were injured. Coming back, it’s a tough thing to do."
Given that this postseason was a continuation of what's plagued Nash his entire career (he has just 18 goals and 46 points in 89 career playoff games) -- he created countless chances, seemed to be in the right spot, and would repeatedly come up short -- his Boston time seemed a lock to come to an end when the Black and Gold's season ended in Tampa Bay last month.
But with a thin free agent market, a prospect pool considerably short on proven right-side options, and with the Bruins legitimately considering breaking up the Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak line to achieve a greater scoring balance, the B's may feel that another go with No. 61 may be their best bet at remaining a competitive team in the East in 2019.
"We’ve got some pro meetings next week, and we’re going to go over with the coaches included. A lot of those conversations, internal conversations that we do have and what’s the best lineup," Sweeney said. "[Bergeron's line is] a prolific line, it’s very difficult to stop, and the chemistry that they have created – we had three people at the World Championships come back and said, 'boy Krejci and Pastrnak played really well together,' so those things filter back to the coaches.
"We know that that’s an option for us."
But it's not the only option.
"Whether or not it’s a player from the outside, whether that’s Rick Nash, whether somebody goes up and plays, I think Bruce [Cassidy] is excited about sort of the younger forwards and the options that he has to try some of those things," Sweeney continued. "I don’t think anything is set in stone. It’s certainly a coach’s decision, but we’ll have some conversations.
"We feel that our top six – I think Rick Nash from a size and puck protection standpoint, gave us something that was maybe missing in that regard, so we’re cognizant of it."
It's believed that the Bruins will try to use their potential of winning to get Nash, who admitted that he and his family really enjoyed their time in Boston, to accept a more 'team-friendly' short-term contract.
Nash scored 21 goals and totaled 34 points in 71 games between the Bruins and Rangers last season, and hits the open market with 437 goals and 805 points in 1,060 career NHL games.
Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.