To the thrill of many New York Rangers fans, Michael “Del Zaster” Del Zotto was traded to the Nashville Predators on Wednesday afternoon. Darren Dreger confirmed the deal and that Kevin Klein was the player headed to the Blueshirts:
For months, Del Zotto was dogged by rumors and speculation, and general manager Glen Sather finally decided to pull the trigger. Sather had to do what he felt was necessary for the franchise, but the wily veteran completely botched the situation.
For starters, Del Zotto was having a rough start to the seasons, and the trade rumors probably didn't help his confidence. It is fair to say that they impacted his play, and that dented his trade value.
Del Zotto may have been playing poorly, but you never sell a top asset at his lowest value. History has shown this many times, with the rise and fall and the subsequent rise of Apple as a prime example.
Del Zotto was on a very good contract, and the Blueshirts held all the cards. Despite his struggles, MDZ is only 23, and his potential upside was worth the growing pains, because he had shown enough to warrant a "stay of execution."
Prior to this season, he participated in 250 games, and during that time, he notched 24 goals and 86 assists for 110 points. That equates to a 0.44 points per game average, not too shabby for a developing 23-year-old rearguard.
There is no disputing that Del Zotto has been terrible under head coach Alain Vigneault, but there was no reason to completely give up on a defender with such promise and upside.
His sample size under Vigneault is too small to use to judge him as a player, and team brass should have just written this season to date off as an anomaly.
Players such as Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan and Derick Brassard all went through struggles to start the season, but each has found their way as the season progressed.
Del Zotto never was given a fair chance, as his ice time was limited, and he spent time playing on his off side and with inferior partners like John Moore and Justin Falk.
That, in my opinion, was the wrong decision because you won't get optimal results from an offensive defender with upside by chaining him to players that have struggles of their own. Had Del Zotto been given a chance with defenders such as Ryan McDonagh and still struggled, it would be easier to understand why he was treated the way he was.
It would be one thing if his overall play has been terrible for the last few years, but that hasn't been the case. Prior to this season he had 250 games in which he showed he could be an NHL player, and he hasn't even hit his prime yet. Four or five years from now, Del Zotto will only be 27 or 28, and that is when he should incur his greatest success.
There is no denying the weakness of his defensive abilities, but he has a history of offensive success that should have mattered to the Rangers. It appears that the Rangers didn't want to wait, and they preferred adding a defender that could play a strong stay-at-home game.
If in his heart of hearts Sather wanted to deal Del Zotto, he should have been less public with his desire to part ways with the Stouffville, Ontario native.
No team is willing to pay top dollar for a player that has fell out of favor with his franchise, and Sather effectively lost any leverage he might have had in trade talks. It would have been wiser to let Del Zotto play out of his funk and then re-evaluate at the end of the season.
Del Zotto's value is at an all-time low, so in all actuality, what did Sather have to lose? What is done is done, but Sather could have gone another route.
Del Zotto was never going to be a steady defensive player, but he was a highly skilled offensive player. He clearly has an offensive gift, but unfortunately the Blueshirts didn't see it that way.
Instead of trading Del Zotto, they could have paired him with someone that could cover for him. A perfect example of this would be what Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero did this summer for his star defender.
Kris Letang was criticized for being a defensive liability, so Shero went out and signed Rob Scuderi.
While Scuderi has been injured this year, the Penguins have made adjustments to let Letang play his game while having his partner mask some of his defensive deficiencies. (Letang also happens to be three years older than Del Zotto, so he is an example of a player that has gotten better with age, despite having deficiencies in his own zone.)
That is what Vigneault and Sather should have done. Instead, as mentioned earlier, Del Zotto has been paired with blueliners like Falk and Moore, two struggling defenders with their own deficiencies, and it is no surprise that the pairing has been the Blueshirts’ worst all season.
While this writer could go on and on about what a blunder this deal was, here are some positives to look at.
Klein will bring a strong stay-at-home presence with physicality to the Blueshirts’ right defense, and he has a great contract. CBS Sports' Brian Stubits suggested that Klein is a cap bargain defender that could potentially replace Dan Girardi, so there is always a chance that the Rangers will sell high on him for a massive return.
That would make up for this deal because there is a chance that Sather could ask for an offensive defender in return.
As it stands, the Rangers are taking a big risk. They just dealt an offensive defender with significant upside for a player that can help them in a big way, but his upside is significantly lower than Del Zotto’s.
There is an old adage along the lines of, "you never know who wins or loses a trade until a few years after the fact," and that could reign true in this situation for Sather and the Rangers.
*Stats via NHL.com and The Hockey News.