Marc DesRosiers-US PRESSWIRE
Michael Del Zotto became the fourth New York Ranger to sign with a European team during the NHL lockout.
The 22-year-old defenseman signed a contract with Rapperswil-Jona in the Swiss National League. Del Zotto, along with Rick Nash, Carl Hagelin, and Ryan McDonagh, are the Blueshirts currently playing overseas.
Del Zotto will be playing against Nash, who is a member of the Swiss club HC Davos.
"Michael was just looking for a place to get some competitive games in so that he is ready if and when the lockout ends," Del Zotto's agent Mark Guy told the New York Daily News.
Del Zotto, maybe more so than any other Ranger, needs to be on the ice during the lockout. Unlike the other regulars who are playing overseas right now, Del Zotto is still a restricted free agent.
It is no secret that Del Zotto and Rangers general manager didn't agree on the defenseman's worth in the days leading up to the lockout on September 15th. In order for Del Zotto to maintain his level of play from last season, he needs to be on the ice playing competitive hockey.
Also, at just 22 years old, Del Zotto still has steps to take in his development. Although head coach John Tortorella acknowledged that "Del-Z" bounced back in 2011-12 after a rough sophomore season, the Rangers bench boss feels that there is still room for him to grow.
"Michael made a great comeback, and he's become more consistent," Tortorella told Stan Fischler over the summer. "But he still has to improve his 'hardness' and mental toughness. I want him to know that he has to do what he did last season every year. That's when you become a player."
As for the risk of injury that comes with playing overseas, the chance of Del Zotto sustaining an injury is the same for him as it is for his Rangers teammates who are also overseas.
However, the risk in stunting Del Zotto's development is just as significant, if not greater, than the risk of injury.