NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Boston Bruins

Photo: (Bob Dechiara/USA Today Sports)

By Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Earlier today, former Bruin Rick Nash announced his official retirement from the NHL.

You can find Garrett Haydon’s article breaking down the news here.

For context, Nash’s early retirement comes as a result of concussion issues as he suffered one with Boston that he likely came back from too early. A true shame that head injuries forced a player of his caliber out of the game; Nash sat third in active goal leaders with 437 and had 805 points in 1,060 games played.

Looking back at last season and the trade that brought Nash from the New York Rangers to Boston, the Bruins gave up a ton for a player who would only suit up in 11 regular season games and 12 playoff contests. That is not exactly ideal for a player that the Bruins gave up a first round pick and a promising young defenseman (Ryan’s Lindgren) for, among other assets (Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey with 50% retained salary, and a seventh rounder).

Nash instantly looked like a perfect fit alongside Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci, filling a hole that had been on Krejci’s right side since Jarome Iginla replaced Nathan Horton for the 2013-14 season. The Brampton, Ontario native played a style that was a perfect compliment to David Krejci’s game, harkening back to the days of the Milan Lucic-Krejci-Horton line.

While Nash was productive for the Bruins with three goals and six points in 11 regular season games to go along with three goals and five points in 12 playoff games, it was a stiff price to pay for a guy who neither stuck around long term nor brought a Stanley Cup. So, aside from a concussion and an embarrassing second-round exit at the hands of a far superior Tampa Bay Lightning squad, things went decently for Nash and the Bruins.

This all brings me to last summer. Personally, I think the Bruins would have been able to keep Nash for more than just a portion of last season. Even Elliotte Friedman said he believes the Bruins really liked their chances to re-sign Nash on 31 Thoughts: The Podcast. After the news broke today, Darren Dreger confirmed that the Bruins were among teams keeping tabs on the power forward:

Things did not end up panning out for the Bruins as Nash decided to forgo free agency to evaluate his future which led to him starting this season without a team and his retirement today.

Ultimately, Nash will be remembered for his contributions with the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Rangers, but it’s not hard to wonder what he and the Bruins could have done for an extended period of time, health permitting.

It’s no secret that Boston has had a gaping hole at second line right wing all season long. It was an issue last season too before the acquisition of Nash, although Ryan Spooner ended up being a fine temporary solution. Had Nash gotten healthy and re-signed in Boston, the 6’4″ 211-pound winger presumably would have picked up right where he left off on the second line, and we wouldn’t be having this season-long conversation.

With this hypothetical second line of DeBrusk-Krejci-Nash, there would not be nearly as much pressure on the first line to drive the offense game in and game out, and the sophomore slumps of Danton Heinen and Ryan Donato wouldn’t be as glaring, but rather much more manageable.

So, if general manager Don Sweeney and Nash had struck a deal to keep the right-winger in Boston, the Bruins would not be forced into a pricey trade market in search of a second line wing, and this team’s secondary scoring issues would not be as pressing of a matter.

More importantly, however, you can’t fault the guy for looking out for his long-term mental health and his family; there are more important things in life than hockey, after all.

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