The New York Rangers protected Nick Holden in the Expansion Draft, pushing the Las Vegas Golden Knights towards taking a more talented player.
What Does Holden’s Protection Mean?
While the Las Vegas Golden Knights may not have selected him anyway, Nick Holden being protected by the New York Rangers in the Expansion Draft means the Rangers will lose a valuable player in the draft.
The news broke that New York protected Holden, meaning the Golden Knights will almost certainly select one of Jesper Fast, Michael Grabner, Oscar Lindberg, or Antti Raanta. Once the Rangers bought out Dan Girardi, they were able to protect Holden.
However, many believed New York would opt to protect Brendan Smith’s negotiating rights (also available to Las Vegas now) or a dead contract such as Kevin Klein’s. The idea was to dangle Nick Holden, a defenseman who has a strong reputation across the NHL, for the Golden Knights to take.
Perhaps the Rangers got caught up in the Holden hoopla as well, though. Alain Vigneault used Holden in crucial situations as recently as this past postseason, so it’s entirely possible that the Rangers believe Holden is a valuable player. In which case, they are protecting someone they legitimately want to keep.
Regardless, protecting Holden is an unacceptable move by New York, and a sign that Jeff Gorton-like his predecessor Glen Sather-just doesn’t get it. It’s concerning. New York determining Nick Holden was a valuable defenseman was the first mistake. The worse mistake, however, was not using him as bait.
Now the Golden Knights can select one of Fast, Grabner, Lindberg, or Raanta without the bait of Holden dangling in front of them. There’s no way to know if they would have actually selected Holden, but he does have a solid reputation in the league.
There remains the possibility the Rangers are planning on trading Holden for a draft pick, but that would mean they valued him more than the exposed players. This entire chain of events should be the cause for plenty of concern.
Most importantly, New York will lose a valuable forward or goalie unless they make a trade. The Islanders surrendered a first round pick in such a scenario, a move New York will not want to make. The most likely scenario is one of the aforementioned valuable players going to Vegas through the draft with no other happenings.
However, keep an eye out for the next domino to fall. The Rangers cannot be happy with losing a valuable player for nothing. Will they pony up? Will Nick Holden move elsewhere? Who will New York lose for nothing? What about Antti Raanta, will he be dealt if he’s not selected? Is Jeff Gorton incapable of evaluating defensemen as well?
Between those questions and the possibility of losing Brendan Smith to the Golden Knights, the offseason took a turn on Sunday. Where the Rangers head next will show how much we can trust this organization.
As of now, it’s not a good look for Jeff Gorton and company at all.