Nash saga evokes bad memories for Sens
February, 29, 2012
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com
If there’s a GM who knows what Columbus' Scott Howson is going through right now, it’s certainly Bryan Murray.
The veteran GM of the Ottawa Senators was faced with an all-too-familiar plight when two-time 50-goal scorer Dany Heatley sprung a trade demand on him at the end of the 2008-09 season.
So when the Rick Nash situation came to light a couple of weeks ago in Columbus, Murray could certainly relate.
"The first thing that came to mind is that [Heatley and agent J.P. Barry] didn’t ask for a trade until the year was over," Murray told ESPN.com. "And the reason they gave their reason is that the coach [then Cory Clouston] didn’t treat Dany right, there was a specific person they had an issue with. At least they gave me a legitimate reason. I don’t know what Rick gave Scott other than, 'The team’s no good, I want out of here.' I don’t know that. But it’s tough to live it. It’s tough to be put on the spot like that. It puts a lot of pressure on management to filter through the demands, the offers, or whatever it may be."
Frankly, when it comes to the Columbus situation, I believe it’s more of a mutual understanding. Yes, Nash wants out. But let’s be honest here and realize the team also wants to move Nash to kick-start the rebuilding process.
Still, because Nash has a no-movement clause, just like Heatley did, the player has tremendous control over the proceedings. A trade will only happen if the player accepts the team he’s going to.
"We got a list as well, it narrows the field and it puts a lot of pressure on the franchise," Murray said.
San Jose was Heatley’s top preference, and Sharks GM Doug Wilson played it brilliantly because of that knowledge. He had all the leverage.
"There was a real preference on their part of where to go," Murray said. "Doug Wilson knew that in the end. He didn’t want to do it before July 1 when the money [a $4 million bonus] kicked in. No. 2, it limited me in what I could demand because of a lack of options. If Scott [Howson] is put in that spot, it does make it really difficult on the organization."
Murray even tried to make a trade with Edmonton but Heatley shot it down, as was his right within the realm of the no-movement clause. I don’t recommend Howson trying that with Nash.
In the end, Murray had to accept an offer from the Sharks he wasn’t overly thrilled with at the time (Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and a second-round pick) because the whole saga dragged into September. As it turns out, Michalek has been a terrific player for the Senators and is having a career year. But at the time, it felt like Ottawa was being dictated to. Murray could have let it drag on into the 2009-10 season to perhaps have Heatley give him more options, but once he saw the disgruntled star show up to camp, Murray felt he had to cut bait.
"I just felt we couldn’t go through any further," Murray said. "It would poison the situation. It wouldn’t help us. That’s what I told ownership, that keeping him around and having a sour person hurts you and hurts what you’re trying to do. Again, I don’t know the Columbus situation enough but I would think if he went back to camp next year, it’s an awfully tough way to start a season."
Murray said he agrees with Howson's decision to not deal Nash before Monday’s trade deadline because he didn’t get the price he was asking for (I disagree. I think Howson should have just grabbed the best deal and got it over with instead of letting this drag on.)
"I would say that the more opportunity Howson has to talk to other teams, the better chance both parties have of getting a deal done," Murray said.
"The friendly advice is, get together with the agent and the player. Work with them. Allow the manager to extend the field of teams. That will allow him to complete a trade that on some level is satisfactory to the franchise as well. [Nash and his agent] at least owe him that."
I’m not sure Nash owes anything to the Jackets. He’s played his tail off for them for a decade and hasn’t gotten much support in the form of proper talent surrounding him in return. Having said that, it might behoove Nash, as Murray suggested, to extend his list just a little come June to facilitate his exit. After all, that’s what Nash wants: to get out.