Rangers draft six and acquire Nick Holden, uncertain future remains

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Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton works the phones at the draft table as a puzzled Alain Vigneault looks on. Photo courtesy blueshirtsunited.com/Getty Images

The NHL Draft finished up this afternoon at First Niagara Center in Buffalo. While teams like the Sabres and Ducks made a splash, the same can’t be said for the Rangers. Without a pick in the first two rounds thanks to some awful miscalculations, they selected six players between Rounds 3-7. That included two defensemen, three forwards and a goalie.

In the third and fourth rounds, they went with defensemen. Certainly understandable considering the mess that is their blue line. Unable to find any takers for Dan Girardi or Marc Staal, general manager Jeff Gorton selected Sean Day at number 81 out of Mississauga. Rangers Director of Player Personnel Gordie Clark compared Day’s skating ability to Paul Coffey. So, obviously speed is his strength which is definitely something the club can use in the future.

“I think I can bring a solid two-way game, and I’m always working on my offensive game,” stated Day in a piece featured on Blueshirts United. “With my speed I can be more offensive, use that to my advantage; and I think I’ve come a long way defensively and using my big body.”

Interestingly, Day put up 22 points (6-16-22) with 27 penalty minutes in 57 games in ’15-16 for Mississauga. That was down from the 10 goals and 26 assists and 62 PIM he tallied in ’14-15. According to Clark, he had a family issue but credited Day for sticking with it and becoming an athlete. Speaking of which, LeBron James is his most admired athlete. He also would love to be Drew Doughty for a day. Superb choices.

In the fourth round, the Rangers selected Finnish defenseman Tarmo Reunanen at number 98. After posting eight goals and 22 helpers with 24 PIM for TPS JR. in ’14-15, he only got into 11 games going 2-4-6 with 14 PIM in ’15-16. Even though he was injured most of the season, Clark liked his “elite hockey sense.”

“We were happy to fill a need with two defensemen, but really we took those guys at those positions because they had the most upside of who was still available at the time,” Clark said.

Timothy Gettinger was the first forward the team grabbed with pick 141 in Round 5. Listed at 6-5, 200 pounds, the left wing from Cleveland, Ohio spent his second season with Sault Ste. Marie in the OHL. After recording 10 goals and 15 assists with 13 PIM in 54 games his first year, Gettinger improved to 17 goals and 22 assists with 32 PIM in 60 contests this past season. The assistant captain is a teammate of 2014 second round pick Brandon Halverson. He also is a big fan of James and admires Alexander Ovechkin.

In the sixth round, the Blueshirts had two picks. At number 171, they took Canadian center Gabriel Fontaine out of Rouyn-Noranda of the QMJHL. He definitely sounds promising. Following a strong ’15-16 registering 20 goals and 25 assists with 43 PIM in 63 contests, he went 5-11-16 in helping lead his club reach the Memorial Cup Final. The previous two seasons were spent playing for Sherbrooke also in the Q.

“I am a two-way player who is good defensively and who can bring offense, too,” explained Fontaine.

Three picks after selecting Fontaine, the Rangers grabbed Canadian goalie Tyler Wall at 174. While my initial reaction was ‘Why get another goalie when they have three in the system,’ I guess it never hurts to have goalie depth in the system. I don’t know too much about him. Wall played for Leamington of the GOJHL in ’15-16 where he posted a 1.49 goals-against-average with four shutouts and a .940 save percentage in 31 games. On Twitter, he couldn’t contain his excitement. Wall will attend UMass-Lowell in the Fall for his freshman year.

The team’s final selection of the day was a familiar hockey name. At pick 201 in the seventh round, the Rangers tabbed Canadian right wing Ty Ronning from where else but Vancouver of the WHL. The son of former Canuck Cliff Ronning, he’s a 5-9, 163 pound forward who exploded for 31 goals and 28 helpers with 18 PIM in 57 contests for Vancouver this past season. Similar in stature to his father, hopefully he has good genes.

That concludes the draft part for 2016. All weekend, Gorton was busy working the phones. As has been rumored by renown TSN analysts Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger, the Rangers were trying to shed salary in a desperate attempt to remake the roster. The biggest names available are Rick Nash and Derek Stepan. Both of who make up a combined $14.3 million of the club’s cap. It also sounds like Kevin Klein can be had. That would make sense considering a favorable $2.9 million cap hit for the remaining two years.

Nothing happened with the Blues regarding rumored defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. A year away from hitting the market, he would like to sign an extension with whatever team acquires him. The issue is that St. Louis was unable to find an offer for the talented 27-year old Greenwich, Connecticut native to their liking. They aren’t just going to give him away. Shattenkirk was certainly disappointed.

Even with some speculating that he would give the Rangers a discount if he came home, I don’t see it being a match. Keith Yandle just got $6.3 million over the next seven years from the Panthers. That would put Shattenkirk’s value at around $7 million. Even if he took say $6.5 million to make a deal happen, who exactly would the Rangers have to give up? If it’s more first round picks, count me out.

Don’t forget that they’re still stuck at $56.8 million. Most of the remaining cap will be focused on re-signing Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller and Dylan McIlrath if they don’t trade him. There’s also speculation they could give up on Kreider, who has yet to mature into a consistent power forward. I love his talent. He has the size, strength, speed and skill to become a 25-30 goalscorer capable of putting up 60 points. He also plays with an edge. Something most of our forwards lack.

Unable to make a big move, Gorton settled for a smaller one acquiring 29-year old defenseman Nick Holden from the Avalanche for a 2017 fourth round pick. Signed for two more years at an affordable $1.65 million cap hit, the 6-4, 210 pound Holden is a skating defenseman who can play both sides. I’ve never really been a fan of his. But he has totaled 21 goals in three seasons with Colorado. He played in all 82 games this past season going 6-16-22 with 24 PIM.

“I think Holden is a guy who has gotten better every year in the league, a pretty well-rounded guy,” Gorton said. “He can kill penalties, play both sides. He’s a player that can skate. I think he gives us good depth, and we’ll see where he fits in.”

The only question I have is where does this leave McIlrath? Is he out of the picture entirely? Right now, the starting defense would look like this:

Ryan McDonagh-Kevin Klein

Brady Skjei-Nick Holden

Marc Staal-Dan Girardi

If that’s what we’re looking at in October, this team is screwed. The defense is already severely weakened when you subtract Yandle, who was a strong possession player and the team’s best offensive defenseman in over a decade. Can you imagine the pressure Skjei will be under? As for Staal and Girardi, how can anyone feel confident that either will bounce back. Look at all the miles on them. Neither is a good skater. In what’s become a league based on speed, players of Staal and Girardi’s stature are going to become extinct.

I have no clue what the organization’s plan is. Like most fans and other bloggers, I’m flabbergasted. Of course, a lot can happen between now and the rest of the summer. So, we’ll just have to wait and see. Or better yet, pray. I’ve already started and the calendar is on June 25.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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