The Boston Bruins, through no fault of their own, already have learned the annual lesson that you can never have enough NHL depth on the blue line.
Already this season, the Bruins have seen Matt Grzelcyk, Brandon Carlo, Jeremy Lauzon and Kevan Miller deal with long-term absences. They’ve fared mostly fine — they’re still first in the NHL in goals against — but depth defense very well might be on the checklist for general manager Don Sweeney ahead of the trade deadline.
For that reason, the movement on the waiver wire Tuesday afternoon was fascinating from a Bruins standpoint. A pair of veteran defensemen were moved with the Philadelphia Flyers waiving Shayne Gostisbehere and the Vegas Golden Knights doing the same with Nick Holden.
Gostisbehere is the more renowned name.
Once one of Philly’s top prospects, the 27-year-old blossomed into a reliable puck-mover, whose shortcomings defensively often were made up by the fact that he was so useful offensively.
The reason he hit waivers, though, is his offense has tailed off mightily. As a result, he’s been a streaky offensive player who’s a liability in his own end — not a great combo.
He’s signed through the 2022-23 season with a $4.5 million cap hit, so any team that would put in a claim would have to be willing to inherit that for at least a couple of years. That might be worth it if a team thinks a system change could get him back on track, but it’s a big gamble if you’re just crossing your fingers, hoping he’s just a “change of scenery” kind of guy.
The potential upside is enticing, though. He flamed out the last two seasons, but prior to 2019-20 was putting up at least 37 points a season, including 65 (13-52-65) in 2017-18.
As for Holden, he’s in his third season with Vegas after signing there following a brief stint in Boston back in 2018.
Over his career, the 33-year-old has solidified himself as a steady second- or third-pairing guy who can move the puck well and provide stable defense. Historically an 18-19 minutes per night player, he’s been in and out of the lineup this season and only is averaging 15:44 ice time per game.
Vegas is loaded on defense, though, so it’s hardly an insult to Holden that he’s on waivers.
And as it relates to the Bruins, Holden might make a bit more sense.
For one, he’s familiar with the system and is signed for this season and next at a manageable cap figure ($1.7 million). Holden presumably could fill the role now vacated this season by the injured John Moore as a plug in and play big minutes depth guy.
That said, if Sweeney wants to roll the dice and scoop up Gostisbehere, it gives him a potential high-upside puck mover that he takes away from a division rival while not having to give up an asset. The ceiling definitely is higher with Gostisbehere, but the floor, as we’ve seen this season, is lower.
Then again, both players have to fall far enough down on the wire for the Bruins to be able to claim them. And that very well might not come to pass.