Hockey fans got a reality check on Tuesday with the news about Kimmo Timonen. There are numerous parts of life more important than hockey and everyone here wishes a full recovery to the Finnish god of defense.
Hours after the Timonen news broke, Hextall signed free-agent defenseman Michael Del Zotto to a one-year, $1.3 million contract. Del Zotto is a 24-year-old puck-moving defenseman who has fallen on rough times since breaking into the NHL.
Del Zotto was traded from the New York Rangers to the Nashville Predators for Kevin Klein earlier this season. Del Zotto struggled early in the season and could not find his confidence. By the end of the season, he was relegated to the third pairing. The Predators were unimpressed with Del Zotto and let him become an unrestricted free agent.
Del Zotto has been up and down since breaking into the NHL. As a 19-year-old rookie, he scored 37 points in 2009-10. The next season, he only scored 11 points and was sent down to the AHL. Del Zotto picked up his game for the 2011-12 season and scored 41 points.
The Rangers refused to allow Del Zotto to enter free agency after his rookie season. GM Glen Sather wrapped him up with a two-year, $5.1 million bridge deal. Two years later, his game has regressed and he has been tossed away by two different teams in less than a year.
Humbled by a second chance, Del Zotto is determined to prove the past couple of seasons were flukes.
While Del Zotto is not the same as Timonen, he does bring an offensive mind to the defensive core. He can run a power play, make solid breakout passes and skates well. He needs work on his defensive zone play, but that could improve with Craig Berube’s defensive-minded system. Overall, he is a low-risk, high-reward player.
Steve Mason is the perfect example of what a fresh start can do for a young player. Michael Del Zotto could revive his career in Philadelphia and Hextall could buy even more time for his young prospects.