The Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired veteran center Riley Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2022.

Nash, 31, is expected to miss the next 4-6 weeks with a knee injury. The pick will become a sixth-round selection if Nash plays in at least 25% of Toronto’s playoff games this season.

Many Leafs fans will be familiar with Nash, as he’s helped knock out the Leafs in two of the past three seasons — once for Boston in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs and again for Columbus in last year’s play-in series. While he’s never been known for his offensive game, he’s consistently stood out defensively throughout his career. He’s often trusted with a penalty-killing role, and he will give the team another right-handed faceoff option who brings some size (6’2, 190) and veteran guile the bottom-six.

Nash is essentially a fast-forward button. His team does not tend to generate much offense when he’s on the ice, but his defensive impacts are consistently off the charts (Source: Evolving Hockey):

With Patrice Bergeron out injured in 2017-18, Nash — already producing well in the Bruins’ bottom six — stepped in on the Bruins top line for a spell in February-March of 2018, and it helped vault him to a career year offensively with 15 goals and 41 points by year’s end, earning him his current $2.75 million AAV contract. Since then, playing on a lower-scoring Jackets team in limited minutes (11-12 minutes per game, with about a minute per game on the penalty kill), Nash has posted seasons of just 12 and 14 points in his past two years.

Nash will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, so this move is a pure rental. His $2.75 million cap hit will almost surely be placed on the Long Term Injury Reserve (LTIR), and it seems rather unlikely that he will play at all in the regular season. Since there’s no cap in the playoffs, Nash could then enter the roster as a depth center.

The team’s center depth took a hit with the loss of Travis Boyd via waivers to Vancouver back in late March. The team is currently using Alexander Kerfoot and Pierre Engvall up the middle, and they seem to prefer to use both Jason Spezza and Joe Thornton on the wing. It wouldn’t be a shock if Nash didn’t feature regularly in the playoff lineup, but at the very least, he certainly adds depth at an important position.

CapFriendly has Brandon Pridham’s cap angle to this move laid out nicely below:

In essence, the Leafs have acquired a shutdown 4C they can factor into their playoff lineup — when there is no cap — at the price of a sixth/seventh-round pick, with the flexibility of LTI relief now in use. This shouldn’t prevent the Leafs from making additional moves before Monday at 3 p.m. EST.