Michael Del Zotto (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
The offensively-gifted defenseman has a new two-year pact in Philadelphia and let's not forget it wasn't too long ago that he was just given up on by the Nashville Predators.
Defenseman Michael Del Zotto has a new two-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers that will pay him an average of $3.8 million per campaign. It's a nice raise for a player the Flyers took a chance on this season and a bit of security for a still-young D-man who believes he found himself in the City of Brotherly Love.
Del Zotto's 32 points in 64 games this past season represented his best offensive totals since he had 41 in 77 games with the 2011-12 New York Rangers. But eventually the Blueshirts grew impatient with their young charge and dealt him to Nashville for the more stay-at-home Kevin Klein. Del Zotto didn't click with the Preds and surprisingly, Nashville decided not to qualify the restricted free agent in the summer of 2014.
It was a foreboding development in the blueliner's career. But Philadelphia took a chance on him and Del Zotto was able to get into a groove – ironically, by playing outside his comfort zone.
“I was really happy with how the year went, especially in the second half,” he said. “It was a bit of a different role for me, playing first defense minutes against the other teams’ top lines and first penalty kill. It was an opportunity I really thrived on and I think I proved a lot of people wrong, that I can play on the defensive side of the puck.”
Skating and puckhandling have always been trademarks of Del Zotto's game and in fact, a scout in our 2008 Draft Preview issue thought he wasn't that far away from Drew Doughty. Obviously Doughty has put some distance between himself and 'MDZ,' but the fact Del Zotto started fewer shifts in the offensive zone this year versus previous seasons bodes well for his all-around development.
Del Zotto now re-joins a crowded yet unexceptional Flyers blueline, one which ranked in the bottom half of the NHL in shots against and possession for 2014-15. Philadelphia was not a playoff team this season and will be hard-pressed to make the leap, since no one ahead of them in the Metropolitan Division got significantly worse and several teams got better.
Could new coach Dave Hakstol help? Perhaps. One thing the former University of North Dakota bench boss could do is instill more focus in his charges.
“For us, it’s just consistency,” Del Zotto said. “You see our games against some of the top teams and we played a great well-rounded game – we just weren’t able to keep it consistent against some of the teams that were lower in the standings.”
And for a team now looking up at the competition, there can be no off-nights for the Flyers in 2015-16.