Mar 18, 2014; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Nashville Predators defenseman Michael Del Zotto (5) skates with the puck against the Edmonton Oilers during the second period at Rexall Place. Edmonton Oilers won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

NHL Free Agency: The Curious Case of Michael Del Zotto

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With free agency now nearly one month old, a young defenseman who seemed to have such a bright future remains unsigned. That defenseman is Michael Del Zotto. The 24-year-old defenseman began his career at the age of 20 with the New York Rangers in the 2009-2010 season. It seemed as if the former first rounder had a very bright future and he only continued to improve.

Del Zotto burst onto the scene for New York in the 2009-10 season. He put up 37 points, but struggled a bit defensively which is to be expected for a young, offensive minded defenseman. He spent parts of the 2010-11 season injured and in the minors, so his sophomore campaign was a bit of a disappointment for Del Zotto. The following season, Del Zotto came back with a vengeance, posting 40 points and improving his defensive zone coverage. He was a main cog in the  Rangers defensive machine under John Tortorella that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals that season. In the lockout shortened 2013 season, Del Zotto followed up his prior campaign nicely, but was not quite as good as the season before. But the worst was still to come for Del Zotto.

This season was an absolute disaster for Del Zotto. He spent the first 42 games of his season with the Rangers and things did not go well at all. He only put up 10 points and was a -5 in his time there. Fans booed him to no end and all over twitter people made jokes removing the D from his initials MDZ. He was in and out of the lineup and thrown around in trade discussions for a couple of months and on January 22nd, Glen Sather found his match. He sent MDZ to the Nashville Predators for defensive defenseman Kevin Klein, a trade which certainly benefited the Rangers.

Things didn’t improve much in Nashville for Del Zotto, as he was a -4 and put up just one goal in 25 games and was in and out of the lineup. Nashville chose not to bring Del Zotto back and he hit unrestricted free agency on July 1st. Here we are on July 23rd and Del Zotto, the player who seemed to have such a bright future and put up 40 points just three seasons ago, remains unsigned.

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If I were an NHL GM, I would certainly take a shot at Michael Del Zotto on a one year deal. First off, despite the fact that Del Zotto is considered to be an NHL veteran, he is just 24. NHL defensemen typically don’t enter their prime until around that age because they take longer to develop and to understand the NHL game than forwards. In the right system and with the right coaching, Del Zotto could once again flourish or even just be an everyday NHL player. There is no question that he has great game offensively, but defensively, he is certainly a liability. If he can get himself to the point where he is just an average defender,  with the right defensive partner, he would be a great pickup. If you could pickup Del Zotto on a one year, maybe even two-way deal, he could potentially be a low risk high reward signing. Who knows if Del Zotto will ever be able to regain form, but he is certainly worth a shot.

Do you think Michael Del Zotto is worth a shot? Think he can regain form? Feel free to comment below!

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