In keeping up with the offseason trend of articles here at BSB, we wanted to take some time to discuss locking up perhaps the most important free agents on the market, our own. Michael Del Zotto finished up his entry-level deal this season, which was a three year deal at just under $1.1M per season. This summer the 21 year old is a restricted free agent with no arbitration rights.
Obviously MDZ rebounded to have a great third season in the pros, scoring 10 goals and 41 points after a subpar sophomore outing. Clearly he still needs to improve defensively, but even that aspect of his game took a step forward this past season. This season Torts gave Michael a lot of rope and used him in all game situations.
So what will Del Zotto’s next deal look like?
In terms of length, it seems to be Sather’s MO to only give two or three year deals to Rangers seeking their second NHL contract. Anisimov, Callahan, Dubinsky, Girardi, Sauer, and even Tyutin were all resigned to two year deals coming off their respective entry-level contracts. Only Staal received a 5 year contract, but he was one of the best defensive defensemen in the league at the time of the deal.
I know a few people also think because Luke Schenn (Toronto) got a five year deal worth $3.6M per season, MDZ could conceivably receive the same. Schenn signed his deal coming off a season where he put up 5 goals and 22 points. However, nothing Brian Burke does makes a lot of sense and Schenn’s contract was an over payment in my opinion. I doubt Sather will use other contracts handed out to other offensive defensemen as a real barometer of what to pay MDZ, since he doesn’t have a whole lot of leverage.
In the end, I think Del Zotto gets two or three year deal worth $2.5-$3M per year. Had he been able to get in front of an arbitrator this summer, MDZ probably could have tried to squeeze more money or years out of Sather. Alas, the CBA is what it is for the time being and I expect Sather to lock him up sooner rather than later.