Should Rangers Fans Be Worried About Del Zotto Contract Status?

Amidst this very good offseason for the New York Rangers that has included acquiring Rick Nash to upgrade the top six, there’s one move left to be done: locking up RFA defenseman Michael Del Zotto to a new deal. Whether you agree or not, Del Zotto’s offensive talents are one of the keys for the Rangers to be successful and, with his 2011-12 campaign, we saw an improved defensive game that will look to get even better next season.

The good news is that, along with not being eligible for arbitration, both sides are working to complete a deal. The Rangers tendered Del Zotto a qualifying offer over a month ago and hold his rights.

It may just be a case of no news is good news. Both sides want to get a deal done: New York knows what it has in Del Zotto and the young defenseman has enjoyed some success in his brief, three-year tenure on Broadway. Everything seems like it will work out as it should.

Or maybe there’s a chance it won’t. 

News broke earlier today Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Andrej Meszaros tore his Achilles tendon while training in Slovakia and had successful surgery to repair it, leaving a possibility he could be gone for the season. Already mired in an unlucky offseason striking out on bringing Shea Weber, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and trading James van Riemsdyk to Toronto for Luke Schenn, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren knew prior to losing Meszaros his team needed depth. Now, it’s expidited even further.

Perhaps to the point where Holmgren attempts to poach Del Zotto from the Rangers?

We’ve already seen such an attempt by the Flyers signing Weber to a massive offer sheet, only to see Nashville match it. Holmgren is no stranger to swinging for the fences to improve (or attempt to improve) his team, and if signing Del Zotto to an offer sheet to give Philly some defensive depth is on his agenda now, he’ll stop at nothing to get it done. A chance to weaken a division rival by taking away their only legitmate offensive weapon on the backline may be where his mind is at currently.

Del Zotto certainly wouldn’t alieviate Philadelphia’s woes with keeping the puck out of their net as he won’t be confused with Ryan McDonagh on the defensive side of the puck anytime soon, but Del Zotto is just 22 years old, shown he can play in the NHL and can only improve from here on out. Other big-name targets such as John Carlson and P.K. Subban may cost too much (either in money or assets), making Del Zotto a bit more enticing.

It’s purely speculation, but don’t be naive as to think Holmgren hasn’t seen Del Zotto’s name still listed as a RFA and thought about bringing his talents to Philadelphia. It’s also entirely realistic the Flyers, with just $3.5 million in cap space, stick to cheaper alternatives or in-house options to fill the void.

Does Del Zotto ultimately sign with New York? Signs point strongly to yes so Ranger fans shouldn’t worry too much. However, today’s news makes the situation a bit more interesting to watch. 

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About James Wrabel, Jr.