When a player is scratched, it’s usually the coaches way of sending that player a message, telling him that he needs to step up his game to stay on the roster. However in some instances, a player is taken out of the lineup because he is about to be traded. Michael Del Zotto has been a healthy scratch for three straight contests and is the subject of both trade rumors as well as poor play. The Stouffville, Ontario native has had a horrendous statistical year thus far, with only 1 goal and 4 points, along with a -4 rating through 16 games. If he continues at this pace, Del Zotto will finish the year with around 16 points, which is unacceptable considering that he is relied on heavily by his team as an offensive weapon, and is the Rangers only true offensive defenseman.
The Rangers struggled mightily in the offensive zone at the start of the season, but now they’ve been able to find some consistency from their forwards, and Rick Nash’s return to the lineup will only add to that. Because of this, Del Zotto has become expendable and GM Glen Sather has let the NHL know it, with reports of at least 5 or six teams inquiring about possible trade scenarios for the defenseman.There is speculation that the Rangers are looking to get a winger out of the deal and one player that has been mentioned is Martin Havlat of the San Jose Sharks. Another team reportedly interested is the Ottawa Senators, who would love to add another puck-moving defenseman to compliment former Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, who was drafted the same year as Del Zotto.
The Rangers are very strong on the left side of their defensive corps, with Ryan McDonagh and alternate captain Marc Staal filling out the top four. This doesn’t leave enough room for Del Zotto to shine, as he is too good a player to be getting third line minutes. Head coach Alain Vigneault is also unimpressed with Del Zotto, going with defensive defenseman Justin Falk instead. Vigneault has also publicly criticized his player, which is never a good sign. Vigneault said “I was told he was good, but I’m not seeing it” when he was asked about scratching Del Zotto. Vigneault typically utilizes a very offensive system, so when an offensive defenseman doesn’t fit into that system, something is wrong.
Glen Sather and the Rangers are in a tough spot with Michael Del Zotto. If they decide to play him during their upcoming 5-game road trip, they run the risk of him continuing his poor play and his stock will plummet. But if they don’t play him, his stock will remain, and where it is at now will not fetch a good return on the market.