Where Does Riley Nash Fit In On The Blue Jackets Roster?

By Dan Dukart on August 1, 2018 at 8:10 am
Riley Nash

Columbus Blue Jackets

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A veteran of 399 regular season NHL games, Riley Nash comes to the Blue Jackets as a relatively known commodity.

He's built himself a reputation as a sturdy, two-way center with a niche for penalty killing and dependable play.

At his introductory press conference, Nash was asked about his versatility. 

"Throughout my career, I've been all over the place in the lineup. Fourth line winger, third line center, first line playing with Marchy (Brad Marchand) and (David) Pastrnak last year. I just try to look at my game and what I bring and how it fits in, and I think on this team, what I can bring kind of suited this style. I think the fit has been, as I kind of look at the roster, the team, the fit will be really good."

A season ago, when star center Patrice Bergeron went down with an injury, Nash saw himself rise in the lineup and set career highs in goals (15), assists (26), and points (41). He had been a career 9.1% shooter, but that bounced to a career-best 13.3% last year.

With a three-year contract worth an average annual value (AAV) of $2.75 million, Nash could be a bargain of a deal. Alexander Wennberg and Pierre-Luc Dubois should be the club's top two centers, but don't sleep on the seven-year veteran to push Wennberg if he fails to elevate his game early in the season.

More likely than not (at least to start the season), the third and fourth line centers will be some combination of Nash, Brandon Dubinsky, and Lukas Sedlak. 

Nash played 147:01 last season shorthanded, second most among Bruins forwards. Regardless of where he plays in the lineup, he'll be leaned on in a big way to fill the void that Matt Calvert leaves on the penalty kill. While Calvert became a fan favorite in Columbus, the fact that Nash is cheaper, more versatile, and plays center makes the loss of Calvert quite manageable.

A career 51.6% CF% (5-on-5) player, Nash will most likely be given the first crack on the third line. Tortorella constantly tinkers with his lineup, but some likely candidates for Nash's wingers at the beginning of the season could be Boone Jenner, Nick Foligno, Josh Anderson, or even Sonny Milano. With Foligno and Jenner having the ability to play center, the possibilities are nearly limitless for the coaching staff to figure out what combinations work best.

Nash may not build on his career highs from a season ago, but Blue Jackets fans can expect a solid, versatile, defensively responsible depth player with more offensive upside than perhaps previously thought. And in free agency, it's hard to be upset about that.

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