COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Rick Nash, the biggest prize available, wasn't dealt before the NHL's trade deadline on Monday.
But the real shocker -- something almost no one knew until it was revealed by general manager Scott Howson later in the day -- is that it was Nash who had asked the Columbus Blue Jackets to trade him.
Most had believed that the Blue Jackets, stuck with by far the worst record in the league at 18-37-7 for 43 points, were dealing him out of desperation. As it turns out, it was the team captain's idea.
"He obviously wants a change," said Howson, who said he was so surprised when Nash asked to be traded in January that it took time for him to process the request.
Nash and his agent, Joe Resnick, did not immediately respond to messages requesting comment. Nash has consistently expressed how much he loves living and playing in Columbus.
That's why Monday's news was such a stunner.
Every team in the NHL spoke to the Blue Jackets about the four-time All-Star, some more seriously than others. Howson made only one small deal on Monday, trading center Samuel Pahlsson to Vancouver for two fourth-round draft picks and minor-league defenseman Taylor Ellington.
Now it's clear that the Blue Jackets will try to deal Nash this summer as soon as rosters open up and teams have time to clear room under the salary cap.
Nash is signed through the 2014-15 season at between $7.5 million and $7.9 million a year. An Olympic gold medalist for his native Canada and a former NHL goal-scoring champion, it was rumored that Los Angeles, the New York Rangers, San Jose and Toronto, among others, were most interested in him.
"He's a member of our team right now. He's our captain. That's not going to change," Howson said. "Obviously, we're going to look at all of our options as we move forward. We'll see what happens once we get around the draft in the summer."
Howson didn't say what he was asking for Nash, but admitted the price was high.
The Rangers bowed out of the Nash sweepstakes Sunday night because Howson's asking price was too high, a source confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com. The Rangers remained in communication with Columbus on Monday, however Howson was unwilling to budge from his demands, the source said.
"We were pretty certain we were going to get what we wanted or we weren't going to trade him," said Blue Jackets senior adviser Craig Patrick. "We just stuck to that right through the whole time."
Rangers general manager Glen Sather confirmed he had talked with Howson about Nash, but wasn't interested in "dismantling" the Rangers.
"I like our team, and I wasn't going to dismantle pieces out of the organization, although it was written just about every different scenario you can imagine. We're not ready to do anything like that," Sather said a little more than three hours after Monday's 3 p.m. trade deadline ended.
The Blue Jackets have the best odds of getting the No. 1 overall pick in that draft. In addition, they made two other big deals in the last week. On Wednesday they traded center Antoine Vermette to Phoenix for a 2012 second-round pick, a conditional 2013 pick and injured goalie Curtis McElhinney. A day later, they dealt Jeff Carter -- acquired in a blockbuster trade from Philadelphia last summer and never a good fit in Columbus -- to Los Angeles for 25-year-old defenseman Jack Johnson and a conditional first-round pick.
Howson says he wants to "reshape" the organization.
Nothing would have reshaped it more than trading Nash, whose low-profile personality has meshed well in a city with a loyal but slowly dwindling fan base. He has said that he enjoys not being the rock star that he would be in his hometown of Toronto or in some of the hockey hotbeds that were interested in his services.
Nash's name had rattled around the league's front offices for several weeks. His agent had given a list of teams that Nash would be interested in to Howson and publicly indicated that his client wasn't averse to leaving Columbus -- if it would help the Blue Jackets.
"We're hopeful a deal can get done prior to the trade deadline that is fair and equitable for the Blue Jackets," Resnick told Canadian sports network TSN. "However, if a deal is not reached, then the list of acceptable teams will not change at a later date."
After the Blue Jackets lost at Pittsburgh 4-2 on Sunday, Nash, who had a short-handed goal, was pragmatic about all the talk.
"It has been a great time living in Columbus," he said after the game. "I'm a Blue Jacket today and I'm doing everything I can to move forward with this team. Like I've said before, the fans deserve a winning game, they deserve a winning team, and they're the ones who have been most patient."
But that was before Howson revealed that it was Nash's idea to be traded. Asked why he did, Howson said, "I just think it was the right thing to do, it's the truthful thing to do."
Nash declined to speak to reporters after Monday's practice.
Columbus hosts the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night.
The No. 1 overall choice in the 2002 draft, Nash shared the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy in 2003-04 after scoring a career-high 41 goals. He has had at least 17 goals in each of his nine seasons, including tallying 21 times this season with 22 assists. In his 654-game NHL career, he has 280 goals and 251 assists. Stuck on bad teams every season except 2008-9 when the Blue Jackets made their lone playoff appearance, he has never been surrounded by much talent.
He also has been a superstar on the international stage, twice representing his native Canada in the Olympics, and winning a gold medal in 2010. Nash was also the MVP while helping Canada bring home gold at the World Championships in 2007.
Columbus hosts the NHL All-Star Game in 2013. Nash has been the franchise's only player of that quality in recent years.
Howson was asked if trading Nash might impact the local team for that game.
"We'll just have to have other All-Stars," he said.
Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Mike Mazzeo and The Associated Press contributed to this report.