By LARRY LAGE
AP Hockey Writer
(AP) - The New York Rangers made a big push in trading for Rick Nash to improve their chances of winning a championship for the first time since 1994.
"It's the right time for him to be here with us," Rangers coach John Tortorella said.
On the opposite side of the continent, the Vancouver Canucks can't wait to resume the franchise's quest for its first Cup when the lockout-delayed season starts Saturday night at home against Anaheim.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins are also feeling a sense of urgency to win it all again.
And advancing one round in the playoffs isn't enough anymore for the Nashville Predators, who raised the stakes by matching a 14-year, $110-million contract to keep star defenseman Shea Weber.
Even though the Predators don't have the best defensive pair in the league anymore with Ryan Suter joining fellow free agent Zach Parise in Minnesota, Nashville expects to try for more than just a third straight trip to the Western Conference semifinals.
"Without a doubt, the ultimate goal is the Stanley Cup," said Weber, who was wooed by the Philadelphia Flyers with a long and lucrative offer sheet as a restricted free agent last summer.
"And to do that, you have to make the postseason. Anything can happen as we all witnessed with Los Angeles last year."
The Kings, seeded eighth, started by knocking off the top-seeded Canucks in the West and finished with a 6-1 rout of the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 of the finals.
That's why Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, who is hoping to help the franchise extend its postseason streak, said it's not realistic for there to be a lot of pressure on any one team to win it all.
"The Cup contenders will be the 16 teams that make the playoffs," Holland said while watching his team prepare on the ice earlier this week for a 48-game regular season.
"The eighth seed won the Stanley Cup against the sixth from the East. The days in the 1990s and early 2000s when the top teams had easier runs in the early rounds are over.
"It's wide open, and that's the beauty of the league."
It won't be pretty, though, in some cities if the results are anything short of a championship.
The Rangers made a long run in the postseason, six games into the Eastern Conference finals against New Jersey.
The Rangers also played in the Eastern Conference finals in 1997. Those two postseasons are the team's longest since beating the Canucks in Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup finals. That was the year before the last lockout-shortened season.
New York led the East with 109 points last season with Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards leading up front and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist having the best year of his career.
Not content to make another run with the same lineup, the Rangers acquired Nash, a former NHL goal-scoring champion, in exchange for three players _ Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Tim Erixon _ along with a first-round pick in the 2013 draft.
Nash might be good enough to put the Rangers over the top.
The 28-year-old, five-time All-Star has scored 40 goals twice, including the 2003-04 season when he had an NHL-high 41 goals a year after being drafted No. 1 overall.
Nash, though, lifted Columbus to the playoffs only once.
Now, he's on a team that'll only be satisfied by a Cup. And, he's also makes a transition from playing in one of the league's smallest markets to its largest.
"I think it's a little bit different for him," Tortorella said.
It'll also be different for Roberto Luongo to be on the bench _ if he's still with the Canucks when the season starts _ while Cory Schneider is in net. Schneider signed a three-year, $12 million contract extension last summer while Luongo heard about trade rumors.
Luongo lost his job after giving up seven goals over the first two games of the playoffs, a 0-2 deficit Vancouver couldn't overcome after leading the NHL in points for a second straight season.
The Canucks have a chance to do it three years in a row with a stacked roster led by the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, who combined for 148 points last season.
Pittsburgh, though, probably has the best duo with the reigning NHL MVP Evgeni Malkin and the return of Sidney Crosby. Concussion-like symptoms limited Crosby to 22 games last season and 41 the previous regular season.