Thoughts following the Del Zotto trade

January 23, 2014, by
Photo Credit: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

As the dust settles after the trade of Michael Del Zotto, there were a lot of thoughts that ran through my head. There was a lot to process in this trade, and now that it’s been a day since the trade, I find myself thinking a little more level-headed.

First and foremost, this is a trade that confirms the Rangers are in win-now mode. If the Henrik Lundqvist extension wasn’t evidence enough, then this is. Del Zotto is a 23-year-old defenseman with a pair of 40 point (pace) seasons under his belt and what seems to be great potential. Klein is a 29-year-old defenseman who plays an incredibly physical game, but has also peaked. This is a trade that sacrifices potential long-term success (MDZ) for short-term needs (Klein).

Speaking of those short-term needs, Klein kills two birds with one stone. We had been wondering where the physicality and toughness on the blue line would come from, and Klein is just that. He is a rugged (6’1, 200 lbs) defensive defenseman that plays very disciplined hockey (21 PIMs) while dishing out punishment. He’s the guy that dropped Derek Dorsett at MSG when Nashville came to town. Slats compared him to Mike Sauer, and although I haven’t seen much of Klein, the comparison is pretty accurate.

Speaking of Sauer, talking about a hole that kid left when he went down with his injury. The club was simply unable to replace his right-handed physicality. Steve Eminger was the closest anyone came to filling that hole. Klein does just that.

The contract Klein has –four more years at $2.9 million– definitely came into play here. He’s a guy that is cost controlled for a while, something the Rangers desperately need with all their free agents this summer. Plus, Del Zotto was headed for another raise via arbitration this summer, likely to about $3.5 million. This actually saves cap space next year for a negligible increase this year.

It’s been noted that Klein is overpaid for a bottom pairing defenseman. There’s certainly merit in the argument. Usually teams don’t succeed by paying their bottom pairing guys $3 million. That is offset by Ryan McDonagh’s incredible bargain of a contract at $4.7 million. They have one of the best defenders in the game locked up for five years at that price. It gives them some flexibility to “overspend” on other areas.

Somehow the Dylan McIlrath/Cam Fowler conversation came up. The Rangers didn’t take Fowler because they had just seen Del Zotto hit 39 points in his rookie season as a 19-year-old. The plan was for MDZ to grow, making Fowler –who is the same player as MDZ– redundant for the Rangers. That’s why they took McIlrath, addressing the need for a bruising defenseman. The plan didn’t work out because Del Zotto didn’t develop as they had planned.

It wouldn’t be a post from me without mentioning the #fancystats. They are essentially a wash on paper. Klein plays more of a defensive role, but was a negative puck possession guy for the Preds. Del Zotto was given every opportunity to succeed in the offensive zone, but couldn’t produce. He was better at driving puck possession, but was still in the negatives relative to the rest of the Rangers.

One final note about the trade: The Rangers dealt from a surplus (young offensive defensemen: MDZ/John Moore) to address two needs (right-handed shot, toughness). Klein was a great character guy in Nashville, but they have Shea Weber and Seth Jones on the right side. Klein was the expendable one. It’s a win-win for both teams at the moment. There’s a solid chance that MDZ becomes a steady top-four guy in Nashville. We hope he does, and we wish him all the best.


  1. Craig says:

    Good trade for the Rangers
    The heck with MDZ’s potential. He has been terrible the last couple of years (offensively and defensively) and we needed some grit (Klein can also throw em) and defensive skill. Also a right hand shot. This is a no brainer! Klein will kick some butt when teams try to take advantage in front of Hank in goal. MDZ will soon want more money to boot. It seems like MDZ lost confidence in NY and will probably do better eventually in a less pressure environment. Good riddance! Life goes on.

    • Centerman21 (Rob) says:

      Yeah Craig. PAL is right. The kid is gone now. No reason to bad mouth him now. He was a Ranger and he played his butt off. He was probably our most consistently physical defenseman. He throws some pretty nasty hits bro. Hits I wouldn’t expect from a kid his size. (DZ is by no means small but he hits like a 230lb Dman). I think DZ is going to be a 50 point defenseman for some team eventually. He’s got the tools. Just like Kreider, he needs to learn how to equate them to the pro game.

      • craig says:

        Not intended to “beat him up” but just stating the facts.
        MDZ held out for more money a couple of years ago and I was really happy at that time he signed. I was a big fan of his.
        These are professional athletics getting paid millions of dollars to perform effectively. MDZ has declined in his performance dramatically and needed to be traded. My point is that we need to stop crying over the bad trade and his potential and just go on without him. Right now, he is no great loss at all for the Rangers. Maybe someday we will regret it, but that happens all the time in professional sports. Some are late bloomers others early bloomers and some fizz out completely. He is not a bad kid and as I said before will do better in a non-preasure environment like Nashville.

    • Dave says:

      No need to bash him. He’s gone, you got what you wanted. He’s a good kid, wish him well in Nashville.

  2. PAL says:

    No need to beat the guy up with words anymore. Let us indeed wish him well in his new home.

    • Centerman21 says:

      IMO You’re right bro. I just hope Nashville resigns him this summer. I’d hate for him to have a breakout season in the East or worse. The Metro! He was the whipping boy in NY! I’m sure he has his return to MSG already planned out in his head. Lol. It could be like a version of the movie “Carrie” on the ice. Lol.
      Anyone have any idea how well Klein skates?

  3. flswarty says:

    I think MDZ will flourish in Nashville. He always seems to play better when there is no pressure. The yo-yo year with Torts he was always looking behind his back afraid to make a mistake which naturally leads to mistakes. He has been shaky in the most playoffs – again pressure. And this year, a new coach, a new system and some very public dissatisfaction with his play. No that there won’t be pressure in Nashville with a new team. But for him – A fresh start should do him well. Good Luck MDZ.

    • Centerman21(Rob) says:

      I second that notion. Take care DZ. He will get to learn his craft from one of the NHL best in Shea Weber. In fact the game Weber plays is what DZ tries to emulate. Weber is a 2 way D with a howitzer from the point and a nasty streak. In the playoffs against AV’s Nucks. The Sedins were held off the scoresheet by Weber. That is who DZ can be some day. Top pairing D. Hello Klein. Welcome to NY

      • Bloomer says:

        Agreed Centerman, still lots of upside potential with MDZ. He could of been what the Rangers need, a defenceman to run their PP.

  4. The Suit says:

    Mentioned this yesterday, but I don’t view Klein as a bottom pairing defensemen since he plays on the PK and averages close to 19 mins a game.

    This isn’t a 10-12 minute a night guy. $2.9M actually seems pretty reasonable.

  5. SalMerc says:

    I feel this is the first of a few more moves to allow AV to put his stamp on this team. While I like Hags, I can see him going next.

  6. Marc Weissman says:

    Great player analysis but “win now” philosophy?! Completely the opposite.

    They signed Hank for 7 years so they have the ability to win…um….in the next 7 years, not just this year. And Klein also has a longer deal in place which again dispels any win-now mantra.
    Win-now would mean signing guys to 1 or 2 year deals max, not unlike many that were done, oh I don’t know, 20 years ago at this time?

    Besides the the fact that Michael clearly struggled under 2 drastically different coaching regimes, this was merely a “stop the bleeding” move b/c DZ is a FA next year, Girardi may walk or be dealt, and the team sorely needed some sort of physicality and RHD on the blue line like u said, not to mention b/c McLrath is bust #2 in the making, thanks once again to Slats glorious drafting “prowess.”

    • Dave says:

      “Win-now would mean signing guys to 1 or 2 year deals max”

      Uh, what? Would you care explaining that?

      Win-now means dealing potential long-term potential (MDZ) for guys that fill immediate holes (Klein) in the short term.

    • Chris A says:

      I am curious Marc how you can confidently declare a 21 year old D-prospect a bust already.

      It is normal for defensemen to take longer to develop when compared to forwards. The fact he hurt his knee last season and lost more development time just stretches out the timetable.

      You knock the Rangers drafting yet virtually the entire core of the team is comprised of Rangers draft picks or players like Rick Nash that were acquired with Rangers draft picks that developed into top 6 forwards.

  7. Bloomer says:

    Time will tell with this move. Always concerns me when the Rangers trade young player for a veteran (thinking Amonte, Zubov, Savard and Middleton to name a few players from a long list).
    Klein is a ok right handed defenseman but not much of a threat offensively. MDZ who knows he is still young, I would of liked to see him remain with the Rangers but what’s done is done.

  8. Walt says:

    Before the trade, I knew nothing about Kline. After reading the articles from the links posted last night I’m excited to welcome him to MSG, and the Ranger family!

    Let’s face it, MDZ was a player who came here with plenty of up side, and potential, and never lived up to those expectations. He was put under fire from the begining, and didn’t play that poorly his rookie season, all because of team needs. He regressed, was sent to the Pack, came back, but never played that great. I believe he had too many distractions from the night life, and the big city, and it affected his game.

    I’m wishing him well, but at the same time I’m glad to see him go. We get a right hand shot D-man who is a good locker room guy, tough as nails, will protect his goalie, what more can we ask for?? He played with Dan, and Callie, and seems to get along with everyone. The trade also puts J Moore in the natural position, left side, and should make the 3rd pair better.

    The man also is signed for another 4 years, at a reasonable rate, could challange for the top 4 spots, and is insurance for the possible loss of Girardi, or Strahlman. I believe that this is a win win for both teams, and time will prove this out! Welcom Kevin!!!!!!!

  9. Chris F says:

    I doubt Klein will remain on the bottom pair for long. He may start there as part of his evaluation, but he should be challenging Stralman on the second pairing.

    He was a top 4 guy on Nashville before Jones was selected. And it appears he was a guy that AV and coaching staff specifically eyed. Sather said the coaching staff knows him well and knows what to expect from him. It’s likely they see a top 4 role for him.

    • HARLEMBLUES says:

      Thank you Chris. Klein is a top4 Dman. In Nashville past years he played the 2nd pair. The drafting and progress of Seth Jones drop him to 3rd pair. He makes our blue line balanced,tougher and harder to play against. The Rangers are better team today.

  10. Seahorse says:

    The real question is who chooses the music in the locker room now with dz gone. I think that’s an over looked part of this trade. What’s Klein’s musical tastes

  11. BenM says:

    My hope is that J. Moore can develop his offensive game when returned to the left side and paired with a defensive d-man. It’s his time to step it up.

  12. HARLEMBLUES says:

    Here’s potential for you J.Moore. Drafted higher than MDZ bigger,stronger,far better skater and still young. This is a excellent trade for the rangers. It addresses many of this team needs. The Rangers are bigger,stronger,tougher and can throw some rights today. Klein is that R/H Dman that everyone has been calling for and signed for 4more yrs. J.Moore it’s your time.

  13. Leatherneckinlv says:

    You also should wonder if next year Conner Allen would have bumped MDZ further down as well. Allen is very impressive so that had to be on their minds as well. The biggest factor to this trade I think was not player for player value but team value. John Moore now gets to play his position with a capable defender to make his rushers covering his six. The biggest winner was John Moore. Mark my words you will see points piling up for John Moore. Klein will become an unsung hero with the old Blueseat faithful and at the Garden.

    And I am hppy for Del Zotto, he goes to a much more relaxed city where he gets to play on a good decent team with potential and flourish. And he will. This was simply a win win win situation. Only negative I have is that maybe Sather could have gotten a 3rd rounder in addition to Klein.

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      lol. 3rd rounder. beat me by 3 mins

    • Chris A says:

      That’s a great point, forgot about Conner. He’s a good looking player. Smooth and pretty polished looking for a college D man.

      I think it’s fair to say we won’t be seeing the likes of Jeff Woywitka and The Corpse of Roman Hamerlik anytime soon.

  14. Hatrick Swayze says:

    Dave, solid analysis and I agree in full. Sacrifice future potential to address a need we have today.

    Are you surprised that we didn’t get a mid to low round draft pick in return? I would have thought Del Zotto’s potential should warrant a 3rd or 5th rounder in addition to Klein. That’s my only gripe with the transaction.

    • Chris A says:

      I am guessing the cost certainty with Klein offset any chance that the Rangers could get a pick as well.

      Dmen like Klein as UFAs come with a cap hit of at least $3.5M per season. If Klein manages to slot in on the second pair then the Rangers are getting a steal.

  15. SalMerc says:

    Let’s re-assess Klein after he plays 10 games with us.

  16. Jeff says:

    I was really disappointed with MDZ over Fowler. One reason only….draft the best on the board. From that position better trade possibilities evolve. Just a philosophy difference and not to denigrate Dylan.

  17. Douglas Peters says:

    Nice trade Slats!

    I was impressed with KK the last time NYR played Preds. KK really pays with a lot of edge – ask Dorsett.

    Still want JT up here playing a regular roll, but maybe he will be soon since we have so many free agents looming in the future.

  18. Erixon20 says:

    Looking ahead to next year, hopefully with a NHL-ready McIlrath, we’ll have 4 RHD, unless Girardi is dealt or signs elsewhere. If that is the case, none of the remaining 3 guys are of 1st pair RHD caliber. I think there are more moves to come…. Love the trade btw.

  19. paulronty says:

    The sad fact is that the liabilities DZ manifests were evident from his play in Juniors and frequently referenced. DZ’s problem is that he doesn’t have good read & react skills which leads to numerous defensive errors. Potential is just that and his progression is going the wrong way. He & Ellis could be a disastrou combo if they play together. This was Gordie’s most serious draft error & the only one that made me curse. It was a BIG mistake not drafting Eberle but that’s done now.

  20. Joe says:

    I hate trading Italians….