Photo credit: Amy Irvin (38Photography)
Despite a recent point surge, the Flyers still sit out of playoff position and their odds of make it dwindle by the game. While the season isn’t yet a total write-off, GM Ron Hextall wouldn’t be faulted if he decided to start selling on potential rentals.
Michael Del Zotto was pulled in as a replacement for Kimmo Timonen who was diagnosed with blood clots over the summer. Del Zotto has done a decent job this season providing some scoring from the blueline with 5G-13A-18P in 42 games played. This is good for 55th in the NHL in points for defenseman. Given that there are 180 regular defensemen in the league, 55th makes Del Zotto an above average scoring defender. As teams load up for the playoffs, it’s very likely Del Zotto will be sought after by a team looking for a left-handed puck moving option to shore up the powerplay unit heading into the playoffs.
Del Zotto compares favorably to other puck moving defensemen who were either dealt already this season or are rumored to be on the move later. He sees the toughest opponents of any of the comparable defenders. Demers, Franson and Meszaros all see tougher zone starts, but in the case of Franson and Meszaros, that’s likely a result of being on poor possession teams.
Also, Franson and Zidlicky, who will likely be rented out by the Devils, are both right handed shots, Del Zotto is a lefty.
So, where does he fit?
Alec Martinez suffered a concussion recently and the LA Kings are a bubble team. If they’re looking for a Martinez rental replacement, Del Zotto would fit. The Kings could send a mid round pick back for him. If the Flyers are lucky, they could pull a 2nd round pick. Of course, the Kings are stacked with internal options so there’s no guarantee they look at Del Zotto.
The Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers both have bottom third powerplays on the season. Both teams could look at Del Zotto as a third pair/2nd PP unit help. This would especially work for the Bolts as Matt Carle is out injured long term as well. Again, the Flyers would be looking at a mid round pick.
The elephant in the room with Del Zotto is his RFA expiry status. Because a team could easily keep him, the Flyers should try to make any Del Zotto trade for a conditional pick, so this way, if he’s qualified and re-signed by his rental team, the Flyers can be compensated properly. The easiest way would be to make the pick conditional to match the same compensation as an RFA Offer Sheet. Sure, this would delay the picks until 2016, but a third round pick in 2015 + extra 2016 picks for Del Zotto would be a steal for Hextall and would set the Flyers up with lots of options long term in terms of trading those picks to rebuild on the fly or keeping them and doing a slow rebuild while other bad contracts expire.