Nick Holden headlined the list of ten players waived by the Vegas Golden Knights to pare down the roster prior to opening the 2021 NHL season against the Anaheim Ducks this Thursday. Some fans are asking why Holden, who seemed to be a solid presence on the VGK blueline, is suddenly gone.
The answer is simple, but a lot goes into it.
To start, by waiving Holden (who did clear waivers) the Golden Knights now shave just over $1M off the team’s salary cap. As fans well know, Vegas was hanging around $973k over the cap all summer. This move gets the Golden Knights just under that magic mark so they may begin the season cap compliant. That’s the short answer.
But you just don’t dump a guy and magically everything works out unless you have a plan in place.
This year in training camp, we saw Zach Whitecloud paired with Nicolas Hague from the start. Holden found himself on the 7/8 pair. From the beginning it was part of the plan to see if Whitecloud and Hague could play together. It seems head coach Pete DeBoer has the confidence in these two to get the job done. That allows the Golden Knights to waive Holden and run with youth in the 5/6 spot.
Also, acquiring Alex Pietrangelo gave Vegas one of the strongest defensive corps 1-4 of any team in the league. I’d argue they’re the best in the league right now in that department. The ability of those four defensemen to eat up big minutes in all situations really helps the Golden Knights. We’ve already talked about how important Alec Martinez is to this team, and keeping him on the team is the most important post-Pietrangelo move the team didn’t make.
Finally we have to go back to the new pairing of Whitecloud and Hague. VGK fans have been teased by these two defenseman for a little while now. Hague is 6-6, 221 lbs. and that type of size is incredibly useful on defense. Just Hague’s reach alone allows him to make plays others can’t. I remember watching the sprawling form of 6-7 Hal Gill when he was in Nashville, laying out on the ice and between body and stick being able to cover 12 to 13 feet of ice. Hague has that same capability with a massive wingspan and giant range on his stick.
Whitecloud seemed to blossom last season, finding favor down the stretch under DeBoer and growing his role accordingly. He appeared in all 20 of the Golden Knights playoff games last season, proof that he would remain in the top six come this season. At 24 he is slightly older than the 22-year-old Hague, but both players show tremendous upside.
While this pair will do its fair share of learning and make mistakes along the way, they represent the future of the Golden Knights defense. The fact that DeBoer feels confident enough in the duo to part with Holden speaks volumes of where they are in their development. After three years of being a team that features very little youth, the Golden Knights are turning that corner both up front and on defense.
The rest of the NHL should be nervous.