Zdeno Chara

A look at Bruins free agents: Nick Holden

A look at Bruins free agents: Nick Holden

The unfortunate part of Nick Holden’s stint with the Bruins last season is that he never really was able to consistently show what he could do in a Black and Gold sweater. Holden, 31, played 18 games for the Bruins after arriving via a deal with the New York Rangers at the trade deadline and showed flashes when some opportunity opened up for him amid the injuries to Charlie McAvoy and Zdeno Chara.

Holden finished with a goal, five points and a minus-2 rating in his 18 games and averaged 19:05 of ice time in those last few weeks of the regular season. He showed some great vision making plays from the point spot, showed off a strong shot from the point, but also showed some real inconsistencies with his play in the defensive zone. That was all to be expected based on his NHL body of work with the Colorado Avalanche and the Rangers, but made him the perfect insurance policy when injuries or ineffectiveness struck Boston’s back end.

Now, Holden is an unrestricted free agent and has to be expecting there will be interest based on his best moments last season for both the B’s and the Blueshirts and based on his 11 goals and 34 points in 80 games two seasons ago in New York. Clearly, he enjoyed his time in Boston, but only managed to get into two playoffs games once injuries starting hitting Boston in the Tampa series.

“I felt like the system was a lot different than I’ve ever played. So, it took me a little bit longer than I think I hoped, and maybe they hoped, to get comfortable, or at least more comfortable, in the system,” said Holden back at Bruins breakup day in May. “But by the end, I felt good. Obviously, we were deep on D, and I knew that when I first got here. So, that’s just how it played out.

“I mean absolutely [he’d like to return]. Right now, being able to spend the last part of the season and the playoffs, you see how young and how good this team is going to be. So, for me, that’s something I would like to be a part of, if it’s possible.”

The question for the Bruins now becomes whether there’s an appetite to bring Holden back as a left-shot D-man with some offensive upside and a history of playing top-four minutes on some playoff-caliber teams. At first glance, it certainly looks like a crowded B’s back end with Chara, McAvoy, Torey Krug, Matt Grzelcyk, Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid all returning and youngsters such as Jakub Zboril biding their time down in Providence. Certainly, that could change if one of those D-men, particularly one of the guys on the left side, was moved over the summer, or if Holden was willing to return to Boston for well under market value.

But the truth about Holden and the July 1 opening of free agency is that some NHL team desperate for back-end up help is probably going to be willing to spend more money than the Bruins could offer him to return. Holden was a trade-deadline luxury on a team looking to make a playoff run, but he’s an extravagance for a team already loaded with D-men with limited cap space to fill its roster needs in the offseason.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney hasn’t closed the door on most of his looming free agents at this point and that would include Holden, a solid player and character guy. But of all of Boston’s potential free-agent decisions, it also very much seems as if Holden is one that’s probably going to get released back into the water with a chance to cash in a little more after last signing a three-year, $4.95 million contract with the Avalanche in 2014.    

So, the door hasn’t closed on Holden, but it might be better for the player and the team if he explores other options while Boston continues their long, ongoing search for a young, sturdy and skilled, top-four, puck-moving defenseman on the left side. If Holden were going to be that guy for the Bruins then, quite honestly, he would have been playing more regularly once the postseason rolled around.

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Hagg Bag: Plenty of offseason questions facing Bruins

Hagg Bag: Plenty of offseason questions facing Bruins

With summer just a few weeks away and NHL free agency just a month away, things are starting to come into place for the offseason. Decisions are being made about impending free agents, trade scenarios are being played out and improvement plans are already in motion for the 29 teams watching the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights duke it out in the Stanley Cup Final.

With that in mind, here’s a late-spring Hagg Bag, where we take on some of those offseason questions, kick things off for the summer season and even maybe answer a few questions about “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and “Avengers: Infinity War” with the summer movie blockbuster season just about upon us.

As always these are real tweets to my Twitter account using the #HaggBag hashtag, real emails sent to my JHaggerty@nbcuni.com email account and real messages sent to my NBC Sports Boston Facebook page. Now, on to the bag:

#haggbag Moving Krug and his cap # seems like a risky, but potentially high reward, move; we need another solid D-man or wing and I feel we have McAvoy and Gryz to play PP...like to hear ur thoughts, Joe. Thanks

Allmanator (@dbiscardi78)

JH: Thanks. My thoughts are pretty much there depending on how serious the Bruins are about improving the left side of their defense. I don’t view a Torey Krug trade as dumping him or getting rid of him at all. Far from it. Did you know that Brent Burns, Victor Hedman, Erik Karlsson and John Klingberg are the only D-men with more points (110) than Krug the past two seasons? It’s more a function of Krug’s value sitting pretty high at the moment, his cap hit is also fairly high for a player that probably should be a bottom pairing/power play specialist and the Bruins having some good, young and cheap options for an offensive defenseman in Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy.

Would the Bruins power play miss much of a beat if they switched Krug for McAvoy as their trigger man at the point position? I’m not sure they would. Could Grzelcyk handle the five-on-five duties that Krug has manned the past couple of years? Would the Bruins be better off with a bigger, sturdier left side D-men in their top four considering Zdeno Chara is going to be 42 next season and that Krug has been banged up at the end of the past two seasons? I think they probably would despite the massive production that Krug provides.

Still, you don’t move Krug unless there’s real benefit behind it. If it gets you a package that includes an established top-six right wing who can play with David Krejci, then you certainly have to think long and hard about it. If it gets you assets that you can then use to help go out and get that frontline, left-shot defenseman, then I think you have to do that. Krug has a ton of value to a team that needs help on their power play or is looking for more offensive pop from their back end. In the short term, it’s going to make the Bruins offense a little less explosive, but one has to assume that McAvoy is going to fill those shows for next season and beyond as he improves. I would do it cautiously and only for a quality return, but I think Don Sweeney and the B’s have to think seriously about seeing what’s out there for Krug this spring and summer.  

Ilya Kovalchuk. Give him a shot. Nash sucked

--Chip O’Brien @chipobrien

JH: I’ll pass on Kovalchuk. Massive talent. Older guy now at 35. He’s going to cost high-end, bonus-laden money because many teams will be chasing after him, but I’m willing to bet he’s not the player he was when we last saw him in the Stanley Cup Final with the New Jersey Devils. I think there are cheaper, younger and better fits that can be found for the second line rather than jumping into the Kovalchuk Sweepstakes full bore.  

Hey Joe

Truly admire all the great work you do covering the Bruins and movie reviews!

I’m totally on board with bringing in Ryan Reaves, who is good friends with David Backes to bring some much needed sandpaper. What are the chances Sweeney brings in a Reaves or perhaps Matt Martin over the summer?

--Brian Cain

JH: Thanks, Brian. Much appreciated. I think the chances are very much predicated on the cost to sign them. Reaves, 31, had a cap hit and salary of $1.25 million this past season and could be looking at a bit of a bump this summer after playing the playoff hero for the Golden Knights. So, would the Bruins be willing to go for a two-year, $3 million contract for Reaves that would probably come at the expense of re-signing fourth-line winger Tim Schaller?

I would hope so, with the expectation that Reaves would provide intimidation, toughness, and the kind of swaggering attitude that the Bruins haven’t really had among their forward group since Shawn Thornton left for the Florida Panthers. It’s something that would really assist Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller as well. They wouldn’t have to constantly be the players dropping the gloves to protect teammates and thereby costing the Bruins valuable minutes with their better penalty-killers and stay-at-home defenseman while they’re in the penalty box.

The fancy stats pocket protector crew like to poo-poo the importance of tough guys such as Reaves, who can drop the gloves, but his contributing role in these playoffs for the Golden Knights isn’t something that can really be truly evaluated in a bar graph or a pie chart. As many nice things as we wrote about the young fourth line of Schaller, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari in the regular season, they were a bit of a bust and very much outplayed by Tampa Bay fourth-liners Ryan Callahan and Chris Kunitz in the playoffs.

I think the B’s fourth line could use a little more brute strength and toughness, a little more veteran savvy and a little more swagger and Reaves would bring all of those to the table. He isn’t going to be an offensive production or puck possession machine, but I still think there is very much some good value there for a perfect Bruins-type player that would be a nice deterrent to some of the cheap shots that Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak have taken the past few seasons.      

I'm looking to buy a Bruins jersey, already have a Bergeron one that's close to my heart. Whose jersey should I pick up that will be a good investment for the future years to come?

--TechnoCop (@jon_landry192)

JH: I’d go either No. 88 with David Pastrnak or No. 73 with Charlie McAvoy. You can’t go wrong with either one of those guys as I think they’ll be in Black and Gold for a long, long time. Maybe you should just get a No. 33 Chara jersey because he’ll probably just keep playing like he is now until he’s ready for an NHL pension plan.

Kessel might be on the move. A fit with Krejci and Debrusk? Would be quite the story.

--Stefan Sveinsson (@stefangier32)

JH: Hard pass. There’s a reason he’s left three different organizations in acrimony and is perhaps most well-known for befriending hot dog vendors in Toronto. He’s way too high-maintenance and, at 30, the skills are going to start declining for Phil the Thrill despite the 34 goals and 92 points he posted for the Penguins this season. Kessel is signed for the next four seasons at $6.8 million per year as he begins the decline portion of his career after admittedly piling up offensive numbers with 330 goals and 741 points in his 914 games. The fact that the Penguins essentially needed an assistant coach in Rick Tochett who could be the Phil Whisperer is ridiculous to me. Now, if Pittsburgh was willing to eat half the money owed to Kessel over the duration of his contract? I might be willing to listen if I were Sweeney, but it still feels like a problem that you really don’t need to enter into a team equation that’s going pretty well. Not to mention, Kessel is a headache that Bruce Cassidy definitely doesn’t need either.   

Hey Joe,

Love the work you do.  Please keep it coming.  My question.....

Do the B's take a run at Kovalchuk? With the projected cap expected to go up, they'd theoretically have more flexibility money wise.  He'd be a real finisher to put next to David Krejci and a huge asset on the power play.  I also think they have the core leadership to deal with his "eccentric" personality.

And a Star Wars question.....if you could only pick one spin off...boba Fett or obi wan Kenobi?

Thanks

Tim

JH: Thanks, Tim! The Bruins really don’t need any help on the power play at this point. I still think they need a big body that can finish around the net and bring some brute strength able to fight through big D-men groups like they had in Tampa Bay. Kovalchuk really isn’t that guy. I’d be more interested in the right-wing version of James van Riemsdyk, a big body that’s willing to camp in front of the net and mix it up for blue-collar offense. Or perhaps they just bring in JVR and then swing young left wing Jake DeBrusk into a right winger and see if it’s possible. Or move DeBrusk to the third line and swing Danton Heinen into a second-line right-winger with David Krejci. There are plenty of possibilities there if they want to open up the purse strings for JVR, who is five years younger than Kovalchuk.

Give me the Obi-Wan Kenobi spinoff movie, and have it connect some of the dots from the ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story” movie that I saw this week, that I liked very much and that is opening things up for a few more movies beyond it. Don’t listen to the naysayers or all of the reports about turmoil on the set of this movie, it’s actually pretty good.  

Hi Joe,

What will the B's have to give up to get Wayne Simmonds from Philly?

--Matt Latsis, via Facebook message 

JH: Hi Matt. What if it was going to cost you Krug and a second-round pick? How about Danton Heinen and Jakob Zboril? Would you do it? I’m not even certain either one of those things would get it done for Simmonds, but it would cost plenty given that there’s a full season left under contract before the Flyers power forward would get to free agency. It would take quite a bit to get him, but he’s exactly the kind of player the Bruins could use on that second line. I say all that despite the fact that he was a disappointment for the Flyers in the playoffs this season after putting up a minus-16 with 24 goals in the regular season. He’s also 29 and entering that stage where big-bodied players sometimes tend to break down, so there’s that to think about if you planned on giving up a lot for him and then wanted to sign him to a long-term contract. All that being said, if I had a chance to get Simmonds for the next few years, I would be very tempted to do it.   

I don't want PK @PKSubban1 in a Bruins uniform. I NEED him in a Bruins uniform. #beaut

--Richie Murray (@Richie_Murray)

JH: Duly noted, Richie. He has been spending a lot of time in the Boston area lately, so all they would have to do is give up a boatload to Nashville to make it happen. It would be fun to see him on the Bruins, but you also have to wonder why you’re seeing rumblings of the Predators moving on from him after Montreal shipped him out a couple of years ago. There are some warning signs there with a high-profile player being dealt twice, even if by all accounts, Subban is the model modern professional athlete. He’s also a right shot D-man, and the Bruins have their top pairing right-shot D-man for the next decade in  McAvoy, who they will have to pay after next season. So, I’d probably have to pass on a guy making $9 million a year for the next four seasons. Can you imagine if the Bruins traded for Subban and he immediately became the highest-paid guys on the Bruins roster? I wonder how that would go over with guys that battled against him for years when he was a member of the Canadiens. My guess is not too well.  

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Morning Skate: Subban and Chara hit the books at Harvard

Morning Skate: Subban and Chara hit the books at Harvard

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while I’m suddenly feeling the pollen in the air this spring for the first time like ever. Good times.

*PK Subban is like Where’s Waldo popping up all over Boston the past few weeks, and he’s popped up again this time taking classes with Zdeno Chara at Harvard. Look at those two elite hockey players hanging out with the wicked smaht kids.

*Ilya Kovalchuk is near the top of the 2018 NHL free agency class as it looks like, at 35, he’s going to return to the NHL and should see plenty of suitors chasing after him.

*Braden Holtby was the star of the show for the Washington Capitals in Game 2 making an amazing save in the third period on Alex Tuch to preserve the split of the opening two games in Vegas. Washington is pumped for their home games in the Stanley Cup Final.

*Speaking of Holtby, it would appear that his kids are really big fans of Imagine Dragons based on his tweet.

*Interesting piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Nick Cotsonika watching a Stanley Cup Final game with a bunch of Vegas firefighters. This is the kind of impact a sports team going for a championship can have on the community around them.

*NHL commissioner Gary Bettman dropped by the Coach’s Corner to talk about Quebec City’s NHL hopes along with the usual Don Cherry talking points that we all look forward to.

*For something completely different: Tom Cruise is officially starting things up for "Top Gun 2", so how about that? I feel the need…the need for speed.

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