Del Zotto needs to improve, and he will be given the time to do so.
Michael Del Zotto is a whipping boy for many, and his underwhelming season hasn’t helped him convince certain groups of fans –and media– of his long-term future being in New York. That said, Del Zotto is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Depending on how the offseason plays out, the Rangers are not exactly blessed with a ton of offense from their blueline, emphasizing the need for an in-form Del Zotto. Unless John Moore’s development is a lot quicker than anticipated, Del Zotto remains the number one offensive blueliner in New York.
Then there is the relatively painful, drawn out contract situation that went on last offseason. Glen Sather doesn’t go through such a protracted –at times public– negotiation if he doesn’t a) believe the player is the right fit for the Rangers, or b) he doesn’t have viable alternatives. Del Zotto should factor into both aspects, as there are a clear lack of alternatives at any level of the Rangers system. Should Del Zotto find some consistency, his game fits well with the Rangers current DNA.
Critics of Del Zotto may point to Brandon Dubinsky’s contract troubles and his subsequent departure from the Rangers, but then again Dubinsky’s departure had a significant part to play in superstar Rick Nash’s arrival. Should Sather have a similar opportunity involving Del Zotto, no one would bemoan a similar return.
With a $2.55m cap hit, Del Zotto is relatively affordable for a club that will need to concentrate their spending elsewhere this offseason. Factor in his young age, and the assumption is that Del Zotto hasn’t fulfilled his potential. At 22-years-old, Del Zotto has two 35+ point seasons and already boasts exactly 250 career regular season games. It’s not easy to find that kind of experience and solid production at his age and, especially at that price tag.
Another aspect favouring Del Zotto is that retaining the blueliner also reduces any transition the blueline needs to go through before next season. We have seen how difficult it was for the Rangers’ forwards to develop consistency after going through significant change prior to this year, so don’t discount this factor..
Del Zotto is far from irreplaceable, and his status in New York isn’t without doubt because of the simple fact that he hasn’t developed any consistency in his career to date, and his playoff performances have –for the most part– left fans and team management wanting more. That all said, several dominos have to fall in place for Del Zotto to be moved out of town. A new coach will have to come in, not like what he sees, and then the team will need to find a taker, one that can give the Rangers something that they need in return.
Del Zotto can still improve. At 22, several high-profile blueliners around the league were not as far down the line as Del Zotto is, so patience may be all that’s called for. Even if it isn’t, Rangers fans will have to live through at least one more season of Michael Del Zotto. For better or for worse.