Nick Holden Trade: Jeff Gorton Starts Things Off Right

The first step in the New York Rangers’ rebuild happened Tuesday afternoon, when the Rangers shuffled a mint condition Nick Holden to the Boston Bruins for Rob O’Gara and a 3rd round pick in this year’s entry draft.

Holden was the smallest of the available players Jeff Gorton had on his shelf, but the return was smart enough to give a boost of confidence to the direction the Rangers are going in. Could there have been more to this? Sure, but let’s get into that below.

Let’s start with O’Gara from Stanley Cup of Chowder’s Top 25 Under 25:

He has NHL size (6’4”, 207lbs) and like fellow Providence teammates Matt Grzelcyk, Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril, he is a left handed shot. However, the similarities generally end there. O’Gara projects to be closer to a bottom 4 defenseman than a offensive or two way Dman like Zboril or Lauzon. Notably, O’Gara can use his size and strong sense of positioning to his advantage whereas Grzelcyk (3rd rd), Lauzon (2nd rd) and Zboril (1st rd) have more advanced offensive upside and mobility to go along with their higher draft pedigrees.

O’Gara is more than likely an AHL throwaway here. At 24 (turning 25 this summer) his 11 career games in the NHL is concerning, and he hasn’t exactly blown the roof off his 107 AHL games, either. The offense simply isn’t there (eight points in 43 AHL games this year) and as a stay at home the defense (obviously) needs to be the calling card, and it hasn’t been enough to catch Boston’s eye. The Bruins do have a fair amount of players who potentially log-jammed O’Gara from getting more NHL looks, but we’ll have a better view of him since he’s joining the Rangers directly. I would be shocked in O’Gara had more than a cup of coffee next year on Broadway — unless the re-build really takes a defensive hit.

The third round pick is where you should look at the true return for Holden. At the most basic level, the Rangers paid a 4th round pick for Holden two years ago and they got a 3rd round pick back for him Tuesday. For a guy who has had such an up and down career in New York, getting more back than what they paid is good business.

From all indications, the market this year is soft, with few teams finding themselves willing buyers and a ton of teams sitting in the willing sellers department. As an example, Washington — who could fancy themselves as Cup contenders this year realistically — already announced their not buying the way they did last year (when they traded for Kevin Shattenkirk). The reason? “You can’t keep buying like that every year.” Strange, the Rangers seemed to do so for — never mind.

Anyway, expecting a lot more for Holden in this type of a market is foolish, and I think Gorton timed this out really well, and took an acceptable return as soon as he saw it. A guy like Holden can sit on the market until the final hours of the trade deadline (as I thought would happen to him), but by then Gorton has to take whatever deal comes his way because there’s no way out. Holden fetched a 3rd Tuesday, but wouldn’t a 5th or 6th be better than nothing if he was still on the Rangers at 2 p.m. next Monday? For a pure depth rental, Gorton played his hand well enough here.

The final note on this move: According to both Larry Brooks and Elliotte Friedman, the move for Holden has not taken Boston out of the running for Ryan McDonagh; which I find somewhat shocking. Boston still being active for McDonagh is vital right now, since it helps foster a more competitive marketplace with other teams — specifically Boston’s divisional rival in Tampa Bay.

There will be more to come with Rick Nash and Michael Grabner, but for now, Gorton has started the rebuild off right.