Looking At The Michael Del Zotto Rumors

When news broke that the Rangers inquired about Fedor Tyutin, the rumor mill became very active. Now that news has broken that the Columbus Blue Jackets inquired about Michael Del Zotto, the rumor-mongering exploded. But let’s take a step back for a moment. Both inquiries came when the respective player was a healthy scratch from the lineup. Nothing (that we know of) came from these inquiries. It’s a safe assumption that these inquiries were just tire kicking, and general managers doing their jobs.

But let’s look at the theoretical MDZ trade. First, analyzing what exactly MDZ brings to a lineup. He is a young puck moving defenseman who had a very productive rookie season. Although he is struggling offensively this year, especially on the power play, his defense has been a huge improvement from his -20 rating last season. He has seen his share of criticism this year, with only some of it –the healthy scratch with homework–earned. The fans are unfairly giving him the Tom Poti treatment, which is utterly ridiculous. However, despite that, he is excelling (compared to last year) at the defensive portion of his position, and considering he is a defenseman, that’s probably the best route to take. The offense will come, especially considering his skill, once he works out the kinks in his game and gets more adjusted to the defensive aspect of his position.

It would take an awful lot to pry MDZ from the Rangers’ grasp, and probably a severe overpayment. If he were to be traded to Columbus, there are likely a few players that are marked as "untouchable", such as Derek Brassard and Rick Nash. It is likely that Tyutin would be one of the people coming back. But Tyutin is just a start in a package that would land MDZ in Columbus. Tyutin, as we know, is a left-handed defenseman who plays a physical game. He has been playing in some very defensive systems with Tom Renney and Ken Hitchcock throughout the years, but has been struggling in new head coach Scott Arniel’s system. So much so that he has been a healthy scratch for a few games this year.

With Tyutin as one piece, it is safe to assume that the Rangers would ask for Nikita Filatov as a second piece to this deal. His name has been thrown around recently, mostly in regards to what it would take to get MDZ. Filatov, the sixth overall pick in the 2008 draft (MDZ was 20th overall), has struggled mightily in the NHL. He has played parts of three seasons thus far, and has amounted a line of 6-7-13 in those three seasons (44 games). The skill level on Filatov is undeniable, but he has yet to put it all together. The 20 year old winger was recently demoted to the AHL because of these struggles. In four games with the Springfield Falcons, Filatov has two assists. Considering Filatov’s struggles, and the quick trigger on the "bust" phrase nowadays, the Rangers will want more than just Tyutin and Filatov in exchange for MDZ. Filatov is all potential and no results as of this moment, and it appears he is quickly losing favor in the Columbus organization. Jakub Voracek is an interesting name here, but for all intents and purposes, he and Filatov are interchangeable (one or the other makes no real difference) in this deal.

With Tyutin and Filatov already agreed upon, Glen Sather would be wise to ask for a first round pick as well. Tyutin is not a puck moving defenseman, and has struggled in keep up in the new faster paced Columbus system, much like one that John Tortorella employs. Replacing MDZ with Tyutin is a downgrade on defense. Filatov is not NHL ready, and although he is just 20 years old, he is losing favor very quickly in the organization. If he continues to fall, he may be had for cheap(er), much like the way Bobby Sanguinetti fell out of favor with the Rangers. So throwing in the first round pick gives the Rangers at least fair value for MDZ.

So is Tyutin, Filatov, and a first round pick fair value for Del Zotto? Probably. Would the Rangers pull the trigger? I highly doubt it. MDZ is a one of a kind defenseman. He is a puck moving defenseman that can quarterback the powerplay, and is having a decent defensive season this year. Guys like MDZ don’t come around that often. The defensemen in the Rangers system do not have this skill set either. The closest thing the Rangers have to a defenseman like that is Tomas Kundratek, as Ryan McDonagh and Pavel Valentenko are not an MDZ type player. So in that regard, MDZ is invaluable to the Rangers. Sure, they can sign a free agent, but they don’t have a prospect in the system that can replace him.

Meanwhile, the Rangers have plenty of young winger who can score, making Filatov less valuable to the Rangers. Guys like Evgeny Grachev, Mats Zuccarello-Aasen, Christian Thomas, and Ethan Werek have great offensive potential as wingers. Their presence makes someone like Filatov even less of a trade chip for the Rangers. From a team value standpoint, MDZ is more valuable to the Rangers organization than a package of Tyutin and Filatov, even if it does include a first round draft pick, one that doesn’t even project to be a top-ten pick. The Rangers will likely hold on to Del Zotto unless an offer blows them away, and this offer does not do it. Trades work differently than free agent signings. Fair market value and fair team value are not equal in trades. MDZ means more to the Rangers than market value dictates, thus he likely will not be traded.