As I touched on yesterday, Michael Del Zotto only has 33 NHL games left before he is no longer exempt from waivers. For those who are not as well-versed on waivers as I, what that means is that after Del Zotto plays his 33rd NHL game, he can no longer be sent to the AHL –other than for conditioning assignments– without being subject to waivers. To make matters worse, Del Zotto is probably penciled in to the bottom pairing, and any signs of struggle will force the Rangers hand, maybe a bit prematurely.
Don’t think for a second that the 33 game “limit” (I use this term loosely) on Del Zotto isn’t going to play into management’s decision to keep him around. If there is any sign of struggle from Del Zotto in camp, you can surely expect him to start the season with the CT Whale until they know for a fact that he is ready. It also means that if Del Zotto will have a shorter leash than most. There is a 100% guarantee that Del Zotto would be claimed on waivers, so once 33 games hits, demotion is no longer an option.
The 33 game “limit” (again, used loosely) will also have an effect on the bottom defense pairing competition. With Tim Erixon likely to make the roster, and Steve Eminger a guarantee to make the roster, then the Rangers are looking at a hole for the seventh defenseman. You can be sure that they won’t put a kid in the seventh defenseman role, so if MDZ struggles, we might actually see Brendan Bell on this team as an insurance policy.
There’s also the scenario that a kid, like Tomas Kundratek, plays his way on to the roster. If that’s the case, then Eminger is likely to be the seventh guy. Would the Rangers keep Erixon around and send Del Zotto down because of the games limit?
Note: In this scenario, I would assume that both Erixon and Del Zotto have good camps, just the kid (Kundratek in this case) outplays them. Much like the Mike Sauer situation last year.
This is one of those rare occasions where there is more involved with the Rangers decisions than just performance on the ice. It serves no purpose to have a kid playing the seventh defenseman role, but a short waiver limit gives Del Zotto an equally short leash. This is actually one of those issues where camp may not solve the problem.