Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Blue Jackets sign top pick Nash



By RUSTY MILLER
AP Sports Writer

        COLUMBUS, Ohio — Rick Nash's big preseason earned him the biggest contract ever offered to an NHL rookie.

        The overall No. 1 pick signed a three-year deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday with a base of about $1.2 million a year and incentives that could inflate it to $8 million to $12 million.

        “Going on the ice each game you had something to prove,” the 6-foot-3, 188-pound left wing said. “Not only just for signing a contract, you have to prove to them you're worthy of being No. 1. You had to play your best to impress them.”

        He tied for the team lead with three goals in five games and finished second with six points. The Blue Jackets (6-3) exceeded their win total from the first two preseasons combined (5-8-3).

        “So far in the preseason, you've got to say he's indicated that he's got what it takes,” Blue Jackets coach Dave King said.

        Columbus president and general manager Doug MacLean said the negotiations with Nash and his agent, Gord Kirke, were always destined to result in a bigger salary than the previous record given to Atlanta Thrashers forward Ilya Kovalchuk last year.

        “From day one I told Gord that I was prepared to come in over Kovalchuk's deal,” MacLean said. “I had no qualms about doing that. It was a year later and I felt he was a franchise player.”

        Kovalchuk, injured late in the season, earned a base of $1.13 million last season and reached more than $4 million with incentives.

        In other NHL signings Monday, defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, the third overall pick in this year's draft, signed a three-contract with the Florida Panthers; the New York Rangers agreed to terms with center Garth Murray; rookie defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo signed a three-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs that could be worth more than $10 million if he meets incentive clauses; and the Nashville Predators signed top draft pick Scottie Upshall on his 19th birthday.

        There was also one trade completed as the Edmonton Oilers sent forward Mike Grier to the Washington Capitals for a second- and third-round pick in next year's draft.

        The Blue Jackets traded up two spots to get Nash with the No. 1 pick, dealing the No. 3 pick to Florida which selected defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. The Panthers also received the choice of trading places with the Blue Jackets in the next draft if Columbus has a better first-round pick.

        Nash, who has drawn comparisons with Detroit's Brendan Shanahan, said he has simple goals in his rookie season.

        “Right now it's just to play on the team and get in as many games as I can,” he said. “I want to grab as much experience as I can and do as much as I can to help the team — that's what would be the best for me.”

        If he hadn't signed by 3 p.m. Monday, Nash would have returned to his junior team, the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.

        Kirke said the negotiations went smoothly — except for a contentious 45-minute period earlier Monday in MacLean's office. The deal was finalized about an hour before the deadline.

        Nash scored 32 goals with 40 assists in 54 games with London last season.

        Columbus opens the regular season Thursday against Chicago.

        ———

        MIGHTY DUCKS: Anaheim assigned center Samuel Pahlsson and defenseman Jason York to AHL Cincinnati. Pahlsson had six goals and 14 assists in 80 games with Anaheim last season.

        York had five goals and 20 assists in 74 games with Anaheim last season.

       



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