Continuing on our look at former Colorado Avalanche players that have largely been forgotten since their departure from the organization is another member of the miracle 2013-14 season. Defenseman Nick Holden was favorite of head coach Patrick Roy and a staple on the blueline that year and through the three seasons he spent with the team.
Holden was born in Alberta in 1987 and like many Canadian kids grew up playing locally in the AJHL for the Sherwood Park Crusaders and then on to the Chilliwack Chiefs in the WHL. He went undrafted and after his final overage year in junior but then signed an Entry Level Contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the spring of 2008.
Through five seasons with the Columbus organization Holden spent the majority of his time with their AHL affiliates the Syracuse Crunch and Springfield Falcons where he played 295 games and received just seven in the NHL with Columbus.
Oddly enough Holden began the pipeline of players from Columbus to Colorado years before the steady stream began when Chris MacFarland was hired by Colorado as Assistant General Manager in 2015. Holden even played for Springfield assistant coaches Nolan Pratt and Jared Bednar in 2012-13 before signing as a free agent with Colorado in the summer of 2013.
Holden was an instant hit in Colorado and with the coaching staff earning himself a full-time role on the Avalanche blueline. Despite signing a two-year two-way contract Holden never spent a single day in the AHL. Through three years with the team Holden played 214 games and scored 51 points with an average of just over 20 minutes of ice time per game and had a knack for pinching down low and sneaking in for an unexpected back-door score. That usage earned him a three-year $4.95M contract from the Avalanche which began in the 2015-16 season.
In preparation for their worst season in franchise history Holden was dealt from Colorado with two years left on his contract in the summer of 2016 to the New York Rangers for a fourth round pick in the following year’s draft. This transaction was rumored to be one of the reasons Patrick Roy quit just before the start of the ill-fated 2016-17 season. The story told by the New York Post of Roy’s reaction to the trade:
“It was funny, we were coming back from Buffalo, I got a call as I got off the plane in Ottawa from Patrick Roy saying to me, ‘You just got one of my better defensemen,’ ” Vigneault remembered. “And I don’t know why Pat called me out of the blue.”
Holden played out the majority of that contract with the Rangers until he was moved to the Boston Bruins at the 2018 trade deadline for a third round pick and low-end prospect. Holden then signed as a free agent with the Vegas Golden Knights and spent three seasons with the club until he was traded in 2021 for a third time in his career with a third round pick to the Ottawa Senators for Evgeni Dadonov.
Today Holden remains with the Senators still playing 20 minutes a night and just recently signed a $1.3M extension to stay with the team in the upcoming 2022-23 season. For a player who is going to soon turn 35-years of age and has managed to play nearly 600 NHL games without ever returning to the AHL after starting his career as an undrafted minor league player it has been a remarkable ride for Nick Holden.