The Michael Del Zotto Situation; Or Analyzing A Bleacher Report Article

Look, I have a very strong opinion about Bleacher Report and what it stands for, but I'm not going to waste my time writing paragraphs complaining about it. If you're interested in a detailed explanation of the journalistic shortcomings of Bleacher Report you can read about it here.

But the purpose of me writing this article is to counter a particular blog post on Bleacher Report about the Michael Del Zotto situation. A Restricted Free Agent, Del Zotto remains unsigned. And there's no doubting that he is a very skilled player who contributed tremendously last season. At last report, Sather was playing hardball with an offer ranging in the area of $2.5M per year while Del Zotto wanted more than that. And according to Bleacher Report's Andrew Capitelli, Sather is "mishandling" the situation and justifies it with just about the worst argument possible. Let's break it down.

"The Rangers defense has gotten one thing down: playing good defense.  Well, that's just fantastic, but in hockey, you also have to put the puck in the other team's net. Obviously, the Rangers' defensive corps missed that memo."

The New York Rangers' defense scored 30 goals last season. Only five teams in the Eastern Conference put in more than that. Given that Marc Staal was out or not at full strength for most of the season, that the Rangers play a defensive system, and that Brad Richards and Derek Stepan play the points on the powerplay, that is pretty good. Some room for improvement? Sure, but  the the defensive corps was above average in the goal scoring department and certainly didn't "miss that memo." But hey, lets not ruin cynical, vague statements with facts! Moving on…

"All joking aside, the reason this team doesn't receive a strong offensive contribution from their defense is because they lack skill."

Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh, and Anton Stralman are certainly above average offensively. Dan Girardi maybe doesn't have any special individual physical skills offensively, but that's really irrelevant. His biggest asset is his brain, and it's what put him one point shy of the 30 point mark last season on the strength of 24 assists. No team has a bunch of Nik Lidstrom's on the roster. And while the Rangers don't exactly have the flashiest defensive corps on the offensive side, they definitely are productive. Go ahead and ask the Flyers how far flashy offensive defensemen like Timmonen, Carle, Meszaros, etc. got them last season.

"The word is that Sather has offered Del Zotto a yearly salary of $2.5 million, and he's welcome to either take it or leave it. Kind of reminds you of our ongoing CBA affairs, doesnt it?"

The difference being that there are 29 other NHL teams who are free to offer Del Zotto what Del Zotto believes is his market value. Except no team has done that. Which makes you believe that Sather isn't too far off. It's called "restricted" free agency for a reason. Del Zotto has certain restrictions in his maneuverability, although there is still a way out.There is absolutely no comparison to be made here despite how much you want to force it.

"So why exactly are we playing hardball with this kid? He may not be there yet, but he's got all the tools to become a top offensive defenseman in the NHL."

Whether Del Zotto is the next Andy Delmore or Ray Bourque is irrelevant. Glen Sather has a salary cap to manage and he has absolutely no reason not to take a hard stance. If another team were to offer Del Zotto a big contract then the ball would be in Glen Sather's court and the pressure would be on. But again, no team has shown any desire to do that. So I fail to see why Glen Sather should bid against himself. This is nothing new to RFA negotiations. Every team does this. Drew Doughty was a borderline Norris caliber defenseman for the Los Angeles Kings for multiple seasons and the Kings took a hard stance in negotiations with him to the point that he missed most of training camp. This is what NHL teams do; it's not specific to Del Zotto or even the Rangers. Glen Sather has been in the business forever and knows what buttons to push in contract negotiations. The idea that we should just throw maximum amounts of money in the direction of any player just because "he has potential" is ridiculous.

"Girardi, Sauer, and Bickel are all defense-first guys; truthfully, they're lucky if they pot five goals a year"

In the past five seasons, the lowest number of goals Dan Girardi has scored in any individual season is four. Three of those years he has equaled or surpassed the five goal mark, including a high of 10 goals. But again, why let facts get in the way of the Andrew's agenda? 

"But I know what a lot of you guys are thinking. Sather has a backup plan, which just so happens to be potential Hall of Famer Matt Gilroy." 

Haha, get it? Because Matt Gilroy is not a potential Hall of Famer! Someone send an email to Comedy Central, because they need to be informed of this comedic genius. Can anyone please point me into the direction of ANY Rangers fan who is on record as saying that Matt Gilroy is a suitable replacement for Michael Del Zotto? I don't know of a single one, let alone "a lot of you guys." But then again, this article is directed at people who read Bleacher Report, so perhaps it's a necessary point to make. 

"Slats signed Gilroy to a minor-league deal earlier this month, which appears to be a move he thinks will put pressure on Del Zotto to accept the deal he has presented him with." 

Yup, you nailed it! Despite the fact that Gilroy was regularly a healthy scratch in both Tampa Bay and Ottawa the previous season and that no team was willing to sign Gilroy to an NHL contract during the entire summer, Glen Sather thinks that he can trick Del Zotto's agent into believing that he is ready to replace Del Zotto's 40 points with Matt Gilroy. Also, Barack Obama plans to win an arms race against North Korea by launching water balloons into the Pacific Ocean. 

But the most ridiculous aspect of this article is that the entire premise implies that Glen Sather has the ability to sign Michael Del Zotto whenever he wants. I don't know if the news has become mainstream yet, but the NHL is kind of in the middle of a lockout right now. Glen Sather could offer Del Zotto the greatest contract in the history of contracts and it wouldn't matter because Del Zotto can't sign it. Surely Del Zotto and the Rangers would have agreed to a contract during training camp, if not sooner. Except Sather was not allowed to negotiate any further. But don't worry, Glen. Once the lockout ends you have Andrew's permission to sign away whatever money Del Zotto feels is necessary and sacrifice necessary cap space because he had one very good year on the back of one absolutely terrible year.

I hate Bleacher Report.

(h/t to Dave of Blue Seats Blog for pointing me in the direction of this article)

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