Monday was breakup day for the New York Rangers, and with it came a sense of finality for this 2012 season. As we continue to move towards the 2012 NHL Draft (which is the next event of note for the Rangers) you can expect the rumors to begin to start swirling.
One of the key players the Rangers will be looking into this offseason is defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who is an
unrestricted restricted free agent. In his "Will they stay or will they go" article, Andrew Gross discusses the possibility of the Rangers using Del Zotto as trade bait:
D Michael Del Zotto (RS: 10 G, 31 A; P: 2 G, 8 A): The Rangers have so many talented young defensemen they might consider moving one to upgrade up front. DZ could be the bait.
Join me after the jump for more.
Del Zotto had a breakout year for the Rangers this season, compiling 10 goals, 31 assists and 41 points, along with 10 points in 20 playoff games. His consistency from the regular season to the playoffs, at least in terms of offense, was remarkable, and he was a big part in helping the Rangers get past the Washington Capitals.
Still a young defenseman, it's understandable that the pressures of the Eastern Conference finals -- along with the tragic passing of his grandmother -- was enough to throw him off his game in the final series.
In reality, there are a significant amount of factors in whether or not Del Zotto will suit up for the Rangers again next year. In all honesty, I think John Tortorella liked what he saw out of him in both the regular season and the playoffs, and I think Del Zotto is a good fit for this team.
But the Rangers' brass believes that Tim Erixon is going to be a mainstay on the Rangers' blue line for years to come. Erixon is more polished defensively, and brings the same type of offensive prowess to the table. In fact, Erixon might be a better offensive option than Del Zotto, but that, of course, remains to be seen.
The Rangers also have Dylan McIlrath in the wings, and have the top-three defenseman of Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi locked down. If both Erixon and McIlrath make the team next year, and Michael Sauer returns (which is unlikely as of right now) then there are seven defenseman for the six holes.
The Rangers are also supposedly involved in trying to acquire Justin Schultz, which would add yet another defenseman into the mix for next season.
So what would you do with Del Zotto?