Rick Nash has officially started his hockey management career. After spending the last few months shadowing Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen, Nash was announced as special assistant to the GM today in a press release from the team. The Blue Jackets also announced that Bill Zito has been promoted to senior vice president of hockey operations, associate general manager and alternate governor. Basil McRae and Josh Flynn have been promoted to assistant general manager, and Chris Clark is now director of player personnel. Kekalainen released a statement on the slew of promotions:
Our club has made great strides in recent seasons thanks in part to the experienced and talented group of individuals within our hockey operations department. We believe it was important to recognize contributions and maintain consistency within our group in order for us to continue to improve and work towards our goal of winning a Stanley Cup.
Nash, 34, is a legendary franchise icon from his playing days with the Blue Jackets. Selected first overall in 2002, it didn’t take him long to become a superstar in the NHL. During his sophomore season, Nash would record his first 40+ goal season and take home the Rocket Richard trophy as the league’s top goal scorer. He would go on to score 298 total regular season goals for the Blue Jackets over his 674 games with the franchise, before eventually ending up with the New York Rangers. A trade deadline deal sent him to Boston in 2018, but after suffering another concussion he was forced to retire.
According to the release, Nash will help in several areas including player evaluations, prospect development and player recruitment. Kekalainen spoke highly of his new assistant:
Rick is the most decorated player in Blue Jackets history and was one of the game’s most respected players during a career that included multiple All-Star Games, Olympic and World Championship gold medals and a Stanley Cup Final appearance. He cares deeply about the Blue Jackets and the city of Columbus and will be a great addition to our organization.
Player recruitment is certainly something the organization will need after they watch three of their best players leave this offseason in free agency. Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Duchene are all expected to test the market this summer, leaving room for the Blue Jackets to make other additions to their group.