The Flyers have already signed a couple of their unrestricted free agents to new contracts, but most fans want Del Zotto under a new contract before the end of this season. Del Zotto is only a restricted free agent after the season, and if anyone should sign him to an offer sheet the Flyers can either match the contract or let him sign with another team. If Del Zotto signs with another then the Flyers would get some kind of compensation for him in return.
The 24-year-old defenseman has had his ups-and-downs this season, including a couple of injuries. The Flyers announced on Sunday that he will miss seven to ten days with an “upper body” injury. There are definitely pros and cons to resigning him.
The pros to signing him are his offensive ability, the fact that he can be the quarterback of one of the power play units and he can log a ton of minutes, so the older guys can get some rest.
Del Zotto is known for being an offensive defenseman. In 54 games played, he has nine goals, which is one off of him tying his career high, when he scored 10 goals in the 2011-12 season while with the New York Rangers. He has added 17 assists to his nine goals for a total of 26 points, which is second among defensemen on the Flyers behind only Mark Streit (43 points). In January, Del Zotto had a six game point streak where he scored three goals, fours assists for seven points. He’ll also sneak in to join the rush in the offensive zone, and can move the puck.
He has done a nice job of stepping in for Mark Streit on the second power play unit. Streit was promoted to the first power play unit after the Flyers found out in the offseason that Kimmo Timonen would miss most of the season due to blood clots. Del Zotto only has four assists on the power play, but he does play with the second unit, which consists of Sean Couturier, RJ Umberger or Vincent Lecavalier, Matt Read and Andrew MacDonald. Del Zotto can move the puck by skating it into the zone, or make the nice stretch pass from his end of the ice to center ice. He is also not afraid to shoot the puck, and most of his shots make it to the net.
One of the biggest reasons for keeping Del Zotto would be that he can log a ton of minutes per game. The defenseman is averaging 21:22 of ice time per game. Del Zotto has played 20:00 or more in 35 of his 54 games this year. He has logged over 25:00 of ice time in a game four times this season. Del Zotto has only logged under 15:00 of ice time in a game twice this season, but one of those games he left because of an injury. He averages 1:43 of shorthanded time per game, and 1:42 seconds of power play time per game.
There are cons to resigning Del Zotto too. He isn’t particularly known for his defensive game. He has been playing with a chip on his shoulder trying to prove those teams that didn’t sign him in the offseason wrong. Would he fall back into his old habits if he was under contract for more than one season?
The biggest thing with Del Zotto is the question mark on defense. He has been decent this year, but is still a minus four on the season.Perhaps more glaring though is that he has 27 giveaways this season. He has been a minus in 20 games played this season, which is partially due to the fact that he often fails to clear his own zone. In four of his six seasons in the NHL he has been a minus player, including this season. Del Zotto tends to get into trouble when he focuses his attention on his offensive play instead of his play in the defensive zone.
He is also playing with a chip on his shoulder, trying to prove those those teams that didn’t sign him in the offseason were wrong in their assessments of his troubles at both ends of the ice. In 67 games played last season, with the Rangers and Nashville Predators, he had three goals, 13 assists, 16 points, was a minus nine, and only averaged 17:12 of ice time per game.
Flyers’ coach, Craig Berube decided to bench Del Zotto for nine straight games in December, due to his bad defensive play. The defenseman was trying to lead the rush, turning pucks over and was often out of position. His numbers before the benching (October 8-December 9) were not spectacular, by any means. He played in 24 games, had two goals, six assists, eight points, was a minus six and averaged 20:20 of ice time per game. He only had 33 shots on goal and one game winning goal. Del Zotto returned to the lineup on December 31, 2014, and hasn’t been a healthy scratch since. In 30 games played, he has registered seven goals, 11 assists, 18 points, is a plus two, and is averaging over 22:0o of ice time per game. The defenseman also has 67 shots on goal, one shorthanded goal and three game winning goals.
He has been inconsistent throughout his career. In four and a half seasons with the Rangers, Del Zotto was anything but steady. In his first two seasons in the NHL, he was a minus 25, in his next two seasons he was a plus 26, and last season he was a combined minus nine with two teams. He is currently a minus four for the Flyers this season. There have been some glimpses of the way that he played before the benching. In a game against the Calgary Flames, he tried to lead the rush, turned the puck over in the neutral zone, and the Flames scored to make it one to nothing.
One of the biggest factors in the Flyers resigning him would be which Michael Del Zotto would they get once he was under contract for more than one year. Would it be the defenseman that was benched because of his defensive play? Or would they see the one that has played a really strong 30 games and has helped the Flyers win some games down the stretch?