The New York Rangers have been looking for taker for Michael Del Zotto ever since it became clear that new head coach Alain Vigneault didn't care much for him.
“I have been told he is a much better player,” Vigneault said back in November. “I have not seen that on a consistent enough basis." In other words: I heard he was good. In my estimation, he is, in fact, bad.
On Wednesday, the Rangers found a trade partner in the Nashville Predators. Del Zotto's been sent to the music city in exchange for defensive defenseman (and star of A Fish Called Wanda) Kevin Klein.
It's a fairly low-risk deal for both clubs.
The Predators are going to get criticized here for making a move for a defenseman when it's clear to everyone that their most important need is scoring, but Del Zotto has some serious offensive upside, and if Barry Trotz can help him to control his defensive lapses -- Rangers fans call him "Del Zaster" -- then he could actually be a part of the offensive upgrade they're seeking.
He'll no doubt be motivated. Del Zotto is an RFA due for a contract extension this summer, and we'll assume this actually appealed to the Predators, who are quietly restructuring and ridding themselves of bad contracts such as Matt Hendricks' deal, which is now Edmonton's problem.
And unbeknownst to many, Klein's five-year, $14.5 million contract was another one.
He's not a bad player by any means, and it didn't look all that terrible a contract when they signed him to it back in September, but a few months into the career of Seth Jones, it was clear that the Klein deal wasn't going to work out.
Klein plays the right side. Do you know who else plays the right side in Nashville? Shea Weber. And Jones, who has shown in his brief NHL career that it won't stay brief. He's going to be a star. That means that, so long as the Predators boast Weber and Jones in their top-four -- and they'd probably like to for just shy of forever -- Kevin Klein is, at best, an awkward fit on his off-side in the top-four, or a reliable third-pairing guy. You don't pay $14 million for that.
Del Zotto, on the other hand, plays the left, meaning that he if can re-find his game, it'll be a whole lot easier to find a spot for him on one of the top two pairings.
It's a similar story for Klein in New York. Del Zotto didn't fit Alain Vigneault's playing style, but Klein, who Vigneault will no doubt fondly remember from Nashville's battles with Vancouver, certainly will. He'll also find some old friends in New York: he played with Girardi and Ryan Callahan on the Guelph Storm when the team went to the Memorial Cup back in 2004.
He'll also fit the orientation of their defense group, which featured four lefties and two righties until this shake-up. John Moore has been playing his off-side, and this trade allows him to move back over to the left. Now it's 3 and 3, and Klein will likely challenge Anton Stralman for a spot on pair two.
All told, good, low-key trade for both teams.