The Philadelphia Flyers have made a lot of questionable decisions regarding their defensive corps in recent years. Bringing Michael Del Zotto aboard definitely wasn’t one of them.
The Flyers received a great return when they signed Del Zotto prior to last season, and they rewarded the blue-liner on Thursday with a new contract that CSNPhilly.com reported to be for two years and $7.75 million. The deal came five days before Del Zotto, a restricted free agent, was scheduled for salary arbitration.
“We always wanted to do a two-year deal,” Del Zotto told CSNPhilly.com. “We didn’t want to settle on one. I think both sides wanted that. It was just a matter of finding the right number and something that’s fair. Being a cap team, just finding something that worked for both sides.”
Del Zotto entered the league with much promise after being selected 20th overall by the New York Rangers in the 2008 draft. He delivered immediately, recording 37 points while averaging 20-25 minutes per game as a rookie in 2009-10 before notching a career-high 41 points two seasons later.
The Ontario native collected 21 points in 46 contests during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign but was traded to the Nashville Predators midway through the following season. Del Zotto’s stay in Music City was a short one, as he was not tendered a new contract as a restricted free agent after posting just one goal and four assists in 25 games with the Predators.
Nashville’s decision made Del Zotto free to sign with any team, and the Flyers swooped in with a one-year contract worth $1.3 million last August. The 25-year-old didn’t leave Philadelphia with any regrets, as he scored a career high-tying 10 goals — including four game-winners — and added 22 assists over 64 games in 2014-15.
The original signing of Del Zotto occurred four months after Philadelphia inked Andrew MacDonald to a six-year, $30 million deal that the team likely is regretting. The 28-year-old MacDonald had a disappointing first full season in the City of Brotherly Love, registering only two goals and 10 assists in 58 games.
The jury also is still out on Luke Schenn, who was acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs in June 2012 for James van Riemsdyk. Drafted fifth overall by Toronto in 2008, the 25-year-old Schenn has recorded 10 goals and 27 assists in 184 games over his first three seasons with the Flyers after notching 22 points in each of his final two campaigns with the Maple Leafs.
Re-signing Del Zotto has created a logjam on Philadelphia’s blue line, as the club now has eight defensemen under contract and another five progressing quickly, including 2015 first-round pick Ivan Provorov, an 18-year-old who many believe is ready for the NHL right now. It would have been even more crowded had general manager Ron Hextall not traded Nicklas Grossmann to the Arizona Coyotes and allowed Carlo Colaiacovo shuffle off to Buffalo as a free agent.
New coach Dave Hakstol has the unenviable task of figuring out how to make the pieces fit the puzzle. Having Del Zotto, the Flyers’ second-leading scorer among defensemen last season, in the lineup on a regular basis should be one of his easiest decisions.