Right Wing Conspiracy – 21 NOV 2013
Right Wing Conspiracy is a weekly column about hockey, with the odd hockey-related conspiracy theory thrown in for good measure.
Dealing Del Zotto
Word on the street is the New York Rangers want to trade 23-year-old offensive defenseman Michael Del Zotto. Two factors have contributed to MDZ’s newly-acquired “surplus” status. First and foremost, his decision-making with (and increasingly, without) the puck has become rather erratic. He’s now playing with a more than a hint of panic in his game. While this could be excused in a rookie, Del Zotto is now in his fifth season in the NHL. As a result, the defenseman has watched the Rangers’ last three games from the press box.
The second reason the Rangers are shopping Del Zotto is money. Specifically, GM Glen Sather is looking at a mountain of players on contracts which expire next summer. While the salary cap will certainly rise, it’s too soon to say by how much…and New York is very close to the current cap, with just $1,076,794 between the Blueshirts and the ceiling (via Cap Geek). Sather will have to make decisions on the following players before next season (and in the case of the UFAs, by next June):
RFA: Brassard, Zuccarello, Kreider, Del Zotto, Falk, John Moore
UFA: Callahan, Boyle, Pyatt, Pouliot, Dominic Moore, Girardi, Stralman, Lundqvist
In addition, Slats has a tough call to make on the rejuvenated Brad Richards, which I dissected back in September. Add it all up, and it means something’s got to give. Right now, that something appears to be Michael Del Zotto.
What would the Rangers need in return for MDZ? Considering he’s a pending RFA with great upside (if he can learn to make better decisions on the ice), mere draft picks won’t get the deal done. Consider the Blueshirts’ recent history: In 2011-12, they came up short in the Eastern Conference Finals because their one true sniper, Marian Gaborik, struggled to shoot the puck due to a shoulder injury. In the offseason, they sacrificed roster depth to bring in a second sniper, Rick Nash. The Rangers then struggled for much of last season, largely because of a lack of depth…so they traded Gaborik for depth players.
Now that New York has the necessary depth players, Del Zotto could be used to bring a second sniper to Broadway. To that end, rumors have been floated about a deal which would send him to Ottawa for winger Milan Michalek. That won’t work, however, as Michalek’s $4.33mil cap hit would necessitate additional roster moves in order to squeeze him onto the roster…unless, of course, the financially-pinched Sens agreed to eat half his salary. Also, Michalek’s numbers have been in steep decline since his 35-goal 2011-12 campaign (which, based on shooting percentage alone, seems to have been a statistical anomaly). Finally, the Sens’ winger will go UFA next summer, leaving the Rangers with nothing to show for Del Zotto.
If Ottawa isn’t a viable option, how about Calgary? The Flames, already far out of the playoff race, are shopping Mike Cammalleri. While Michalek’s output has declined, Cammalleri’s is actually improving. Like Michalek, the Flames center (who can also play wing) will go UFA next summer. However, Calgary is so far below the cap that they could easily absorb half Cammalleri’s $6mil salary/cap hit to make the deal. In addition, if the Flames threw in smallish defenseman Kris Russell (cap hit: $1.5mil, UFA next summer) and the Rangers sent Benoit Pouliot and a 3rd-round draft pick west in return, the deal could be a short-term win for New York and (potentially) a long-term win for Calgary.
Admittedly, including Russell in the deal is a bit of wishful thinking, but adding Del Zotto would give the Flames a surplus of blueliners, so someone would need to go. Chris Butler, perhaps? Regardless, Mike Cammalleri would give the Rangers a much better return for MDZ than Milan Michalek. The bottom line is this: The Rangers need to trade Michael Del Zotto. Ideally, they would get a goal-scoring winger (preferably a right-handed shot, but they can’t be too picky about that) and a veteran 5th or 6th defenseman in return, players who can help them win NOW, because upcoming contract decisions mean the New York Rangers will be –for better or worse– a vastly different team next season.
Follow Matt Pryor on Twitter: @BigTex1926