Long-term contract extension with Jackets easy decision for Rick Nash

Resisting the allure of free agency was easy for Rick Nash.

TORONTO — Resisting the allure of free agency was easy for Rick Nash.

Earlier this month, the 25-year-old native of Brampton, Ont., agreed to an eight-year contract extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets worth US$62.5 million. Nash would’ve been an unrestricted free agent after next season but said he always wanted to remain with the Jackets.

“It was pretty easy because Columbus wanted to get everything done and I wanted to stay in Columbus,” Nash said Tuesday before opening the sixth annual Jake’s House Golf Classic for Children with Autism. “It was just a matter of coming to a fair deal and we did, we got there.”

The new deal will kick in after next season. The six-foot-four, 235-pound Nash will make $7 million in 2009-10.

“I had a good two months to think about it and talk with a lot of family and friends,” Nash said. “I just went over my options over possible places I could go and at the end of the day after speaking with Scott (Jackets’ GM Scott Howson) and the ownership at Columbus it was just the right fit.

“Columbus has become home and that’s where I wanted to stay.”

Nash established career and team highs last season with his 79 points (40 goals, 39 assists) in 78 games in leading Columbus to its first trip to the playoffs in the franchise’s eighth season. It was also his first full season as captain.

The burly left-winger tied for the NHL lead in goals with 41 in the 2003-04 season. He was also Columbus’s first overall pick in the 2002 draft and is the club’s all-time leader in goals (194) and points (355) in 441 career games.

A four-time NHL all-star, Nash has led the club in goals for the past five seasons. And at last month’s NHL awards in Las Vegas, he was named the winner of the NHL Foundation Player Award in recognition of his charitable work and commitment to the community.

This marks Nash’s first year with the Jake’s House golf tournament — which was held Wooden Sticks Golf Course in Uxbridge, Ont. — although he says he’s been involved in the charity for the past four years.

“It’s a great cause and something where I became friends with the family,” Nash said. “It’s nice to give back.”

But Nash’s summer is scheduled to come to an early end. He was one of 46 players invited to the Canadian Olympic hockey team’s summer orientation camp in Calgary at the end of August.

Nash was a member of the ’06 Canadian Olympic team that was a disappointing seventh in Turin, Italy. With the 2010 Games slated for Vancouver, Nash fully understands the weight of expectation that will be on this year’s squad but readily accepts that challenge.

“My first Olympics was a bitter-sweet thing so if I got the opportunity to wear the jersey again it would be an honour,” he said. “Just to think it’s going to be in our own back yard, this one is going to be special.

“Anytime you play for Team Canada the pressure is so high to win. But I think it’s going to help us a lot with our own fans behind us.”

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