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Adam Smith was wrong

The rumored state of trade negotiations for Rick Nash reminds me first of Nash Equilibrium as a solution, and secondly of the movie Equilibrium as a metaphor for the problem.  When I say “reminds me,” I mean beats me over the head with blatant similarities.

Nash isn’t the blonde, not by a long shot right now.  There is no blonde, because John Nash’s theory has permeated our way of doing business so that there is hardly ever a blonde anymore.  Were Zach Parise or Ryan Suter the blondes?  Hardly– they didn’t get left standing alone, but there was certainly some blocking going on.  That’s not to say Matt Carle might not have felt like one of her friends the day after they signed.  Oh well, I hope Detroit and Philly didn’t want him too badly.

So, the big name free agents went to “small markets.” Those teams offered them a lot of money, but apparently not the most money in at least one case. Much is being made of Parise and Suter wanting to be in a nice place like Minnesota, close to home, and together. There’s really no way to negotiate against that, is there? You either have it or you don’t.

What about Rick Nash?   What is his visceral need, that which cannot be calculated in dollars?  To win, before he gets too old.  That’s a tough one.  If he really wants to move, he needs to make The List longer.  He must know what Howson is asking for, he must recognize how destructive his loss can be to the franchise.  If he wants to leave so badly, he will have to balance the needs of Columbus with his own wishes and the needs of other teams.  He won’t benefit from breaking up one of his choice teams to get himself there.  Maybe he believes he can make up for any loss the team suffers to acquire him.  If the teams on The List thought so, would he still be in Columbus?

He’s been playing a for a long time without having a shot at the Cup, he doesn’t want to go over the hill without a chance to realize his ambitions.  Anyone can understand that.  But now is not the time to be uncompromising.  Back before he signed a very long contract for a lot of money, that would have been the time to consider realistic options.  Back when he first hit free agency, that would have been a good time to be picky.  He probably had laudable reasons for making those decisions then, but he did make them.  He may have to sleep with them.  Even if he does go to one of the teams he thinks is a perfect fit, there is absolutely no guarantee that team will be win the Cup in time for him, even if they don’t give up enormously vital assets to sign him.

Who is the dreamer?  The beleaguered Columbus fan base?  Rick Nash’s career?  Who is the Cleric?  I guess we’re all a little of both.  We want things to be orderly but fun too, place cards and cake for everyone.  We can’t have it, there’s always going to be a locked door in the way, or a velvet rope.  There will always be a drunk pawing at your significant other.  You can’t always get what you want, so you better figure out what you need pronto.

According to the rumors, Scott Howson is going through Nash’s list of approved teams asking for young franchise players, as if determined to get his hands on untouchables.  In some perfectly emotionless equation, this might make sense- he is offering his best player, why shouldn’t he ask for the best player in return?  Well, he isn’t, of course… he’s asking for the best up and comer: Skinner, Couture, Couturier.  He isn’t asking for Lundqvist or Thornton or Giroux.  Not that he would have much luck getting any of those either.

I don’t know if those rumors are true.  They make Howson sound either crazy or determined to fail.  Rick Nash might be his best player, he might be one of the best in the NHL, but he is worth more (or was) to the Blue Jackets than to anyone else.  Now that his desire to be traded is public, Howson has less leverage because Nash’s perceived value to Columbus has gone down.  You don’t want to keep a player who doesn’t want to stay.  And then there’s that contract.  Howson is in one stinky pile of problem, and Clerical thinking won’t help him.

Someone needs to try harder to understand the needs of their negotiating partners.  Because of his age and his contract, Nash should accept that he might not be a fit for one of the usual suspects among playoff contenders.  That list might be out of date now anyway.  Why not think outside the box?  Maybe Nash doesn’t want to cope with the publicity machine in Ottawa, though he probably would have been a good fit there in terms of skill and experience.  What about those teams that have hovered on the edge of success for so many years, like Nashville and Phoenix?  Sure, his contract is daunting for teams like that but I haven’t heard even a whisper of talks with them.  Those are the sort of team that he could be a difference maker on.  The Rangers?  The Sharks?  I don’t know.  Neither team has a burning need to undercut its future to get Nash.  They have their own equilibrium to think of.

Nash’s dreams are no more important than anyone else’s.  He can’t rely on others to tread carefully, so maybe he should put those dreams someplace more practical.


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