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Del Zotto Traded To Nashville

Michael Del Zotto is no longer a member of the New York Rangers, but was the move worthwhile?

The months of speculation are over. The New York Rangers announced Wednesday afternoon that they traded away defenseman Michael Del Zotto to the Nashville Predators for defenseman Kevin Klein.

The possibility of Del Zotto being moved was supposedly mulled over for some time now, but nothing had come of it up until Wednesday when a deal was finally made. Del Zotto wasn’t always thought of as a young defenseman who was on the trading block, however.

When he stepped on the scene in 2009, many Ranger fans were very excited from what they saw out of the 2008 first round pick. He scored nine goals and notched 37 points in his first season with the team, and many thought his scoring would only go up from there. One of the glaring problems in Del Zotto’s game, however, was his defense and his +/- rating of -20, but many simply attributed that to him being a rookie and that it would be something he’d grow out of. Since then, Del Zotto’s best season with the team occurred in the 2011 season when he had a career best in points with 41 and a +/- of 20. Other than that, his point totals each year have fluctuated and he still makes rookie mistakes in the defensive end with 5 years of experience under his belt.

Although Del Zotto’s potential offensively attracted the Rangers initially, after five seasons with no major improvements in the defensive zone it seemed both the Rangers, and their fans, started to grow weary waiting on him to mature. First season Ranger head coach Alain Vigneault clearly wasn’t the defenseman’s biggest fan, making him a healthy scratch a few times this year and verbally calling him out for his defensive lapses and not seeing the offensive potential that he was told he would see out of Del Zotto. And let’s face it, how many years can a player have in the league before they stop having potential. While Del Zotto might have an upside offensively for a defenseman, I think what you see is what you’re going to get with him on the defensive side of the puck, which is far more important in my opinion. In a system with John Tortorella, who has a very good defensive mind, Del Zotto still wasn’t able to shake his defensive struggles, and with an offensive coach like Vigneault, the Rangers couldn’t afford his defensive lapses.

It seemed as if a trade was inevitable, and there were plenty of rumors going around that teams were interested in Del Zotto. Rumors of the Maple Leafs and Senators circled around a bit, both saying the Rangers would acquire either defenseman or a young forward that would give them depth. They ended up acquiring Kevin Klein, though, and that might have come as a shock to many people. Many believed, with a 23 year old like Del Zotto who could still be seen as a player with great potential, the Rangers would acquire a young scorer or a defenseman with offensive upside that they would be losing by trading him away. Instead, they picked up the 29 year old from Ontario in Klein who is much more defensive minded.

New York’s General Manager Glen Sather has come out and said the reason that they wanted Klein was because he was a right handed defensive shooter, something they were lacking on their team ever since they lost Michael Sauer to a career-ending concussion. Del Zotto was also a free agent at the end of the season, while Klein is under contract for the next five years at $2.9 million a year, so it could also be possible that the Rangers were looking to the future with this deal. Perhaps they felt that they weren’t going to resign Del Zotto at the end of the season and wanted to at least get a defenseman in return for him that could be a long term option that would last them for a few years at a low price. Klein certainly fits this bill, but I don’t think it really ends there.

I think that Del Zotto truly wore his welcome with the Rangers. He was not producing offensively the way he was supposed to, and his lack of improvement defensively was making him more of a liability than an asset. Once a player who was thought to be able to be traded for a scorer like James van Reimsdyk, Del Zotto is now is being shipped off to Nashville for an older, more experienced, defenseman.  Only time will tell if Del Zotto will turn into the player that the Rangers expected him to be, but one thing is for sure, the Rangers weren’t going to wait around to find out.