March 23, 2012; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Rick Nash (61) lines up for a face off in the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at Nationwide Arena. Columbus won the game 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-US PRESSWIRE

Nash Trade Implications

As the Rangers and Blue Jackets were finally able to agree to terms that will send the perennial all-star winger to New York, the balance of power may have again shifted. The Jackets sent Nash and a third round pick to NY for Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, defensive prospect Tim Erixon and a first round pick. This trade, along with the uncertainty surrounding Shea Weber’s offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers, may have ushered in the Atlantic Division’s dethroning of the Central as the toughest division in the NHL, by far.

During the offseason, it’s easy to argue that the Atlantic teams got a lot better. The Rangers got Nash and look to be on the verge of signing Shane Doan. The Flyers lost Matt Carle, but are in position to lock up one of the best defenseman in the game, not to mention a trade for Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan that looks to be on the horizon. Pittsburgh looks like the same juggernaut it was last year, but with a healthy Sidney Crosby. New Jersey lost Zach Parise, but is still the defending Eastern Conference Champion, and the NY Islanders are beginning to see signs of improvement as their young core matures. Clearly, this division is filled with Stanley Cup Contenders.

On the other hand, the Central Division, debatedly last year’s strongest, fell off a bit in the offseason. St. Louis made few moves other than resigning young forwards TJ Oshie and David Perron. The Red Wings fell short on a couple free agents, and lost Niklas Lidstrom to retirement. The Blackhawks did not make much noise in the offseason, and are still uncertain of the healthy returns of Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews. The Blue Jackets just lost by far their best player and franchise leader, and although they got some promising pieces from the Rangers, this trade won’t show major dividends this season. Nashville had a horrific offseason, losing blueliner Ryan Suter to the Wild, numerous offensive pieces to free agency, and look on the verge of allowing Shea Weber to walk to Philly.

Although the two division appeared fairly evenly matched at the end of last season, the Atlantic Division took a firm step forward since the Kings hoisted the Stanley Cup, and look to be the most impressive collection of teams in the NHL.

Tags: Artem Anisimov Brandon Dubinsky Chicago Blackhawks Columbus Blue Jackets Detroit Red Wings Matt Carle Nashville Predators New Jersey Devils New York Islanders New York Rangers Philadelphia Flyers Pittsburgh Penguins Rick Nash Ryan Suter Shea Weber Sidney Crosby St. Louis Blues Tim Erixon

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