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Rick Nash Trade Rumors: Deadline Approaches, Sharks, Maple Leafs Still In On Star Forward

The NHL trade deadline is fast approaching, with only hours left for teams to make any last-minute trades. The San Jose Sharks have already made a move, though it wasn't the big one many were looking for. Since the beginning, they've been linked to a potential deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets for Rick Nash. They, along with four other teams, are considered to be in the running up until the last minute.

Actually, you can make that three other teams, as ESPN reports that the New York Rangers are now unlikely candidates for a trade:

As of Sunday night, the New York Rangers appear to be out of the running for Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash. Barring a drastic change, a deal to bring the prized winger to New York looks unlikely, a source told ESPNNewYork.com.

While the report does state that the Rangers were front-runners as early as the beginning of last week, the Sharks were always reported as one of the teams in heavy pursuit of Nash. Now it looks like it may be down to San Jose and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The only caveat is that the Rangers were clearly high on Nash and wanted him badly, so seeing them back out means Columbus' asking price is truly a high one.

That doesn't mean there won't be a buyer. Before this all started, it seemed as though Nash just wanted to stay with the Blue Jackets and within the Columbus community. Now it's more likely he'll be shipped off, due to the fact that his agent said they were motivated to get a deal done before that deadline. With Nash wanting to get something done and the competitors dropping out, this just increases the chances the Sharks will be able to land the wing.

Factor in the fact that the Sharks have lost their last two outings in poor fashion, and there's even more motivation. Doug Wilson says he won't judge on just a couple games, but the Sharks closed out a nine-game road trip with a 2-6-1 record and are now falling behind in the Pacific Division for the first real time in many years.

It's beyond thinking of just a "couple games" now. The Sharks probably don't need to make the move, but Nash unquestionably makes them better, unless a trade starts with Logan Couture and ends with another high-value name. Couture is already off the table, though.

The trade deadline is 3:00 p.m. ET on Monday.