Could Bruins be targeting Rick Nash?

With the NHL Entry Draft set to kick off Friday night in Pittsburgh, the trade chatter is getting louder. Just as he was at the trade deadline in February, disgruntled Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash -- who requested a trade out of Columbus prior to the deadline -- is once again the big fish on the market and once again the Bruins could be contenders to acquire the first overall pick from the 2002 NHL Draft.

On Thursday, multiple sources confirmed to ESPN Boston that the Bruins have inquired about Nash, but as of now they are only exploratory talks. As was the case in February, the common feeling around the NHL is that if the Bruins are to acquire Nash, they would have to part ways with the likes of forward Tyler Seguin or defenseman Dougie Hamilton in a trade package that most likely would require another roster player and prospects. As of now, the Bruins are reportedly unwilling to do that.

Seguin led the team in goals and points last season and Hamilton is looked at as a future No.1 defenseman, so while the Bruins would love to acquire a big scorer up front -- especially with the uncertainty surrounding Nathan Horton, who is recovering from concussions -- they’re not willing to break up their young core.

Goaltender Tuukka Rask was also mentioned as a possible trade chip for Nash back in February, but obviously with Tim Thomas bypassing the final season of his contract with Boston, the Bruins won’t be dealing Rask, who is a restricted free agent on July 1 and who the Bruins are looking to lock up before then.

But as Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli pointed out, he and other general managers will return to trade talks they had leading into the deadline.

“A lot of the work you do leading up to the trade deadline does carry over, so what I try to do also is, along those lines, is that I try to set up deals, plant seeds, set up deals at the trade deadline for the summer or for the fall,” Chiarelli said. “So there’s a lot of legwork that goes into making a trade. They’re hard to do now, so my preparation for this trade market and upcoming trade markets starts back before the trade deadline.”

That could be why the Bruins are being linked to Nash again. If Chiarelli is, in fact, exploring the possibility of acquiring Nash, could center David Krejci or winger Milan Lucic -- along with another roster player and prospects -- get the job done now? With Nash carrying a $7.8 million cap hit for the next six seasons, and the Bruins having just $3.8 million to spend against the new $70.3 million salary cap, Boston would definitely need to unload some salary to make a trade for Nash work. The Blue Jackets have let it be known that they want young roster players who can have an immediate impact and help jumpstart a disappointed and dormant fan base in Columbus.

Krejci has a cap hit of $5.2 million for the next three seasons and Lucic has one season left at $4 million against the cap before becoming a restricted free agent on July 1, 2013. Both are proven commodities in the NHL, especially with Krejci proving his worth during the Bruins’ 2011 Cup run -- with 23 points in 25 games -- and Lucic coming off two 20-goal-plus seasons and evolving into a solid power forward. Krejci (26) and Lucic (24) are also still young and come with reasonable cap hits.

But, as mentioned above, Krejci and Lucic would still have to be only the centerpieces of any trades for Nash which means the Bruins would need to throw in another roster player and probably two top prospects. Jordan Caron’s name has come up on the trade-rumor circuit recently, but a better roster player and prospects like Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight would be more appealing.

Chiarelli did tell the media on Monday that he is more inclined to wait until after free agency begins on July 1 to make any moves, to see what other teams do and where the two biggest free agents, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, sign.

“The trade market right now is the most active, and what’ll happen is, come July, that will take a bit of a backseat to free agency, and then once we go through that first tranche of free agents, then the trade market will re-emerge,” Chiarelli pointed out. “Right now, with the trade market the way it is, I'll make some calls, but frankly I’m probably more apt to wait until the free-agent market and then the secondary trade market. I call it the secondary trade market but it’s fairly significant. So my objective will probably be to wait unless something falls in my lap.”

That something could be Rick Nash or maybe Ducks winger Bobby Ryan, who according to ESPN.com’s Pierre Lebrun, could be moved. But the question remains, who would Boston be willing to trade?