In this week's online mailbag, columnist Adam Proteau answers questions on Michael Del Zotto, Martin Erat and more.
There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call THN’s mailbag.
Here are this week’s questions.
Will Michael Del Zotto be able to bring back anything decent in a trade for the Rangers? It seems he is on his way out.
Thomas Murphy, Vernon, N.J.
Del Zotto’s stock has dropped this year – his ice time is down more than five minutes a game to an average of 18:03 – but he’s still only 23 years old and talented enough for another team to take a chance on.
The issue in moving him isn’t as much about talent as it is about money. Del Zotto earns $2.9 million this season and while that's not an unaffordable number for many teams, the problem is what happens with him when he becomes a restricted free agent this summer. Even if you’re an NHL GM interested in his skills, what type of money and term do you give Del Zotto at this stage? And bear in mind, your hand could be forced if another GM signs the player to an offer sheet. That’s about as dangerous as it gets for NHL management teams these days.
Still, I’d be shocked if there were no takers for Del Zotto. One bad year won’t exclude someone with his skills from getting another shot. It’s just a matter of finding the right talent match in return – and rest assured, the Rangers aren’t going to give him up for a mid-round draft pick and future considerations – as well as the right financial fit.
Been meaning to send this in for a while, but I think I may have a pretty good suggestion for ridding the NHL of goons. After NHLers have played, say, two games, they will be suspended x number of games if their penalty minute total exceeds the actual amount of time spent on the ice (you could also have the rule be that time on ice must be at least double your PIM stats; this would really cut out a lot of Frazer McLarens).
In other words, if John Scott gets a fighting major and another minor infraction in a game, his coach better make sure he's been averaging seven minutes a night, or else lose him from the lineup.
Brandon Sparks, Fredericton, N.B.
That’s interesting, but a little too complex and inflexible for my preference. And let’s use your example of judging a player’s contributions after only two games: if a star player found himself in a melee in the first minute or two of one of those two games and wound up with a game misconduct, he would lose out and be suspended, right? That makes him a victim of a dragnet not intended for him.
All things considered, I’m still good with the NHL adapting some form of the sliding-scale fight punishment used by Ontario League commissioner David Branch & Co. Under that system, any player can engage in fisticuffs, but it’s the repeat offenders over the long haul who land in increasingly hot water. That’s a fair compromise solution for me.
Now that Martin Erat wants out of Washington, how bad does the Erat-and-Michael-Latta-for-Filip-Forsberg trade looks for the Caps? I'm just a fan with no professional knowledge, but when they announced the trade last year at the deadline, I was in shock, having read only good things about Forsberg. It was a puzzling move.
How good a prospect is Latta? Any chance (even a slight one) that the Caps will get something good in return of for Erat, to make up for the loss of young Foppa? Thanks.
Eric Barriault, Saint-Constant, Que.
You’re not alone. Many within the hockey world – myself included – were mortified that Caps GM George McPhee made that deal, sacrificing the best talent in the trade (Forsberg) for a short-term solution in Erat. That it hasn’t worked out and Erat has demanded a trade is another indictment of the transaction. Latta may be a decent NHL worker bee one day, but he’s still only 22 and could be a career minor-leaguer by the time it’s all said and done.
The odds of acquiring something of value in an Erat trade are slim, to say the least. The 32-year-old has yet to score this season and has a $4.5 million cap hit next year. His actual salary in 2014-15 is $2.25 million, so a team near the upper limit is going to steer clear of him and his only option may be with a team that needs to get to the cap floor without paying out the full amount. So the best the Caps can hope for is they’re not burdened with a similarly brutal contract they’d have to take back in return for getting Erat off their books.
In other words, this deal remains one of the NHL’s worst in recent years – and if Forsberg evolves into a force, it’s likely to stink even more as the years go on.
Ask Adam appears Fridays on THN.com. Ask your question on our submission page. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Adam on Twitter at @ProteauType.