Brad Penner/USA Today Sports

Nick Holden trade is contender kind of depth move for Bruins

Ty Anderson
February 20, 2018 - 6:08 pm

With less than a week to go before the market closes, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney took his first dip into the trade deadline waters on Tuesday.

“It’s expensive, I can tell you that,” Sweeney quipped of the current trade market.

But the third-year general manager did not exactly pay a premium with his first trade of the deadline season, which has landed Rangers defenseman Nick Holden with the Bruins in exchange for AHL defenseman Robbie O’Gara and a 2018 third-round draft pick.

O’Gara, while a nice kid and your classic good soldier kind of player, was never quite a fit for what Bruce Cassidy wanted to do. He was also passed on the Black and Gold depth chart by Matt Grzelcyk, and with more names to follow in the next year or two, be it by guys already in Providence (Jeremy Lauzon, Jakub Zboril) or those on the way to the North American pro game (Urho Vaakanainen and Ryan Lindgren). He was your classic tweener stuck in Providence purgatory, and thus expendable for the 2018 goal.

And while a third-round pick may seem high for a player that could simply be an extra body, it’s worth noting the abundance of high-end prospects and draft picks the Bruins have hit on recent years makes such a gamble worth it in an unforgiving trade market. Oh, and just 43 of the 180 players selected in the third round of drafts from 2010 to 2015 (I stopped at 2015 for development timeline purposes) played in at least 30 NHL games, meaning that the pick had a 24 percent chance of hitting in the first place.

So to spin that into Holden, a 30-year-old making just $1.65 million (with slightly over $400,000 due on prorated deal) and an unrestricted free agent this summer, represents the perfect kind of depth deal that a legitimate contender makes this time of year.

Pigeonholed into a top-four role and/or playing on his off-side with Ryan McDonagh or Marc Staal this season, you could easily make the case that Holden was consistently miscast for the Rangers out of pure necessity most nights. He also handled some of the toughest assignments a Ranger d-man could this year. And you could argue that this likely change of pace to a more fitting role -- on a third defensive pairing and maybe the second units of either end of the special teams department -- will benefit everybody.

Also: It’s not as if Holden’s career-year, which came with last season’s 11-goal and 34-point output, happened a billion years ago and this is the B’s collecting another long-expired talent a la Andrej Meszaros, Wade Redden, Greg Zanon, or Mike Mottau.

Most of all, the 6-foot-4 Holden fits a not-so-secretive need the B’s identified from the start of the season. Or even before that, when they went through what felt like their entire organizational pipeline in a six-game round one series loss to the Senators.

“Well, I think we’ve been pretty obvious in the fact that we’d like to improve out left-side depth overall,” Sweeney said. “Overall, very happy with the players and the way they’ve played, in particular Matt Grzelcyk and the way he’s come up and integrated with our group. We were on our 10th defenseman last year when we got into the playoffs.”

Sweeney also stressed the importance of this not being a deal that makes any of the Black and Gold’s core group, which has helped propel the Bruins to the third-most points in the NHL, and just one behind the Lightning for the most in the Atlantic.

“[Grzelcyk] shouldn’t read into it. He’s playing tonight. Nobody should be looking over their shoulder,” Sweeney said. “I think we just realized how imperative it is to be a deep team. We said it all along, we want to be a deeper, more talented team.”

Holden does just that, as he becomes an upgrade over Paul Postma as the club’s eighth defenseman at the absolute worst, and with the flexibility to make another move before not Monday’s deadline should something come along for Sweeney’s club.

“We’re gonna continue to look at the marketplace and see where guys may fit in, who’s available,” Sweeney noted. “We’ll continue [to make] the calls that happen a lot more frequently this time of the year, and see where it goes. Our club has played well.

“But as I said, we have a long way to go.”

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