New York Rangers Must Learn From Kevin Klein, Trade Nick Holden

Dec 3, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Nick Holden (22) controls the puck against the Carolina Hurricanes during the third period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 3, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Nick Holden (22) controls the puck against the Carolina Hurricanes during the third period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports /

Nick Holden has been a pleasant surprise so for the New York Rangers, but there are signs that it may not continue, and management should learn from prior mistakes.

NHL: Ottawa Senators at New York Rangers
NHL: Ottawa Senators at New York Rangers /

This past draft, Jeff Gorton and company of the New York Rangers made a trade that seemed surprising, yet small. That move was acquiring Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nick Holden for a fourth round draft pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

Many Rangers fans figured this was either a precursor for another move on defense, or Holden would be the seventh defenseman on the team. His production output the previous two years for bad Colorado Avalanche teams was nothing to behold. Turns out, neither came to fruition, at least not as many hoped it would.

Dylan McIlrath was traded to the Florida Panthers earlier this season, and much to everyone’s surprise Nick Holden began the season on right side of the top pairing with Ryan McDonagh, despite Holden being left handed.

Holden had defensive struggles early on, but seems to have fully adjusted to Alain Vigneault’s system. Holden’s been in the lineup every night and his production has blown just about everyone’s mind.

A Tale of Two Defensemen

Nick Holden is certainly exceeding everyone’s expectations, which sounds awfully familiar with likes of his teammate, Kevin Klein. Klein’s first full two seasons in New York were something completely unexpected, registering nine goals and seventeen assists each of the past two years.

Klein began this breakout age thirty, unconventional certainly, but this season’s he’s regressed to his career mean and now has zero goals and eleven assists past the midway point of the season.

Over the first 433 games of Kevin Klein’s career, Klein scored 17 goals on 441 shots, scoring on 3.9% of his shots, from the beginning of the 2014-15 season to the end of the 2015-16 season, Klein scored 18 goals on 145 shots, a 12.4% clip.

This season has proven to be regression for Klein with his zero goals on 38 shots.

Nick Holden does vary in play style to Klein, that being Holden’s been known to have a more two-way game compared to Klein, a more defensive defenseman dating back to juniors. Holden did at one point put up 22 goals in 70 games in the WHL nine years ago, but that same kind of production has yet to translate to the professional level.

The Columbus Blue Jackets gave Holden an entry level contract, Holden put up only 45 points over two seasons in the AHL, and did not register a point in seven career games for Columbus.

Holden then signed a contract with the Colorado Avalanche and burst onto the seam scoring 10 goals and 25 points in 54 games, along with 3 goals in 7 playoff games, and putting up a shooting percentage of 15.2%.

The following two seasons were not much to brag about, as his shooting percentage dropped to 5.7%.

Return of Top Production

This season things have skyrocketed for Holden at age 29 with 24 points in 46 games and ready to shatter his career high in points. It is worth noting that Holden is rocking an unsustainable shooting percentage of 19.5%, with 8 goals on 41 shots.

Looking at Holden’s track record, there’s reason to believe that his production may regress in the worst way, especially with him turning 30 in May.

The Time to Deal is Now

Holden is signed through next season at $1.65 million, and is a possible candidate to exposed in the expansion draft this June. With a cap hit that most teams can absorb with ease, it should be in the best interest of the Rangers that they try to move his contract if Holden.

The Rangers had been rumored in the past two summers to be trying to move contracts, with speculation that Klein may be on the way out. New York held back and now Klein’s value to other teams in potential deals may have dropped significantly.

Jeff Gorton should look to move Holden and try to recover draft picks (possibly more) and to also allow increased roles for players like Brady Skjei and give top Rangers defensive prospect Ryan Graves his chance on the left side in the NHL.

Next: New York Rangers: Return of Offense Means the Return of Defense

The New York Rangers cannot afford to make the same mistakes that handcuff them from true contention in years to come, and trading Derick Brassard for Mika Zibanejad was a step in the right direction, and a great way for the front office to continue to prove they’ve learned would be to continue to sell high on players like Nick Holden.