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After ‘humbling summer,’ Del Zotto aims to bolster Flyers’ D

Aug 20, 2014, 12:23 PM EDT

Michael Del Zotto Getty Images

The majority of Michael Del Zotto‘s summer didn’t go very well.

But it ended on a positive note.

Del Zotto, the former first-round pick that fell out of favor with both the Rangers and Predators last season, was an unsigned UFA deep into the summer signing period. After Nashville cut ties with him entirely, no other NHL deals came to fruition — but on Aug. 5, everything changed.

Philadelphia lost the services of Kimmo Timonen (blood clots) and needed a replacement on defense, so Del Zotto was signed to a one-year, $1.3 million deal. It marked the end to the most tumultuous period of his young career.

“Yeah, it was a different summer for me,” Del Zotto said, per TSN. “Last season didn’t go as well as I would have liked but it’s been a very humbling summer but a very motivating summer.”

The 24-year-old needs all the motivation he can get to repair a reputation that, according to what one NHL club told the New York Post, was “in tatters.” Thankfully for Del Zotto, Philly will provide a pretty good opportunity to get his career back on track — the Flyers’ projected top-six defense is Mark Streit, Braydon Coburn, Andrew MacDonald, Nicklas Grossmann, Luke Schenn and Nick Schultz, a group laden with veteran presences but hardly the toughest nut to crack.

The biggest opportunity for Del Zotto might be the opening Timonen’s departure presents on the power play. The veteran Finn was a PP unit staple a season ago — he finished second on the team in PP TOI (3:25 per game) last season, and led all Flyer rearguards with 20 power play points — and if there’s one thing Del Zotto was known for in the early stages of his career, it was producing with the man advantage.

During his best season — the 2011-12 campaign in New York — Del Zotto finished tops among Rangers d-men and second in the team in power-play assists, with 13. For all of the question marks regarding his defensive awareness and commitment level, there’s no denying Del Zotto’s skill set and ability to move the puck, meaning he could audition for a chance to QB the Flyers’ power play.

It’s something head coach Craig Berube alluded to shortly after the Flyers signed Del Zotto.

“He has lots of skill, speed,” Berube said, per CSN Philly. “He gets up in the play offensively. [He] worked the power play before in New York. He has a lot of skill.”

As for Del Zotto, he’s not focusing on power play units or defensive pairings right now. He just wants to reclaim the form he showed earlier in his career.

“I know what I can bring to the Philadelphia Flyers and what I can do to help them out,” he said. “I’m confident in myself and confident I can get back to where I used to be.”

  1. lowenni - Aug 20, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    This season is make it or break it for him. He still has all the tools to be the player he was, he just needs a vote of confidence from his coach and the offensive freedom to do what he does best. The loss of Timomen definitely opens up a spot for
    Him, but Mark Streit also had a solid season offensively last year and Del Zotto will have to compete with him for power play time, offensive zone starts, etc. Should be interesting to watch the Philly blue line this year.

  2. phtjoey - Aug 20, 2014 at 12:54 PM

    it always makes me laugh when I read things like; “he just needs a vote of confidence from his coach and the offensive freedom to do what he does best.” or “he just needs a team that will allow him to play to his full potential”. if it were that simple the kid wouldn’t be on his 3rd nhl team in 7 months. he’s a professional hockey player paid to perform.

    the only reason he was signed by the flyers was because of timonen’s condition. not the most flattering way to get on a team after some terrible seasons with the rangers and preds. the best predictor of future behavior is pass behavior. he’s nothing more than a band-aid solution.

    • phillyphanatic77 - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:47 PM

      Injury opens the door for players in every sport. It doesn’t matter if it’s the most flattering way or not. It’s a chance for a 24-yr old defender to prove his worth as a 1st round talent (he’s done it before). Not saying MDZ will be a 50-pt blueliner but he brings a pretty unique skillset to an unskilled blueline. And he may not be Timonen but he’ll bring way more mobility… and that’s a good thing.

      • phtjoey - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:15 PM

        Well. M’y point is that it isn’t flattering for a player who’s been struggling the past seasons in the NHL and that nobody wanted until an injury came up. We’re not talking about a prospect here that is in the minors who’s getting his first crack at the NHL. But! Yeah! It’s a chance nonetheless. Hope he makes good on it. As an observer I just think you can’t be excited about the question marks surrounding this player that 2 teams gave up on in the span of less than 6 months.

    • petersteelewannabe - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:51 PM

      My understanding is his “pass” behavior is pretty good, he was known as both a good scorer AND passer…

  3. chaseutley - Aug 20, 2014 at 12:58 PM

    He’ll be an interesting guy, for sure. Be rube will either get through to him or he won’t. If del Zotto he can’t step up on the defensive end, he will be watching a lot of games from the press box by January.

  4. milkmemalkin - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:02 PM

    I love how Flyers fans think he’s some sort of free agent steal. Yes he is a low risk signing, but if no other teams were interested in him, something must be seriously messed up with MDZ. There comes a point in every players career where their production is what matters and not their potential and MDZ has hit that wall.

    • 76ersdoubletank - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:20 PM

      I don’t see any Flyers fans on here saying that. Just saying.

      • ibieiniid - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:28 PM

        I haven’t seen it either. frankly, he’s no steal. he is, however, a cheap contract with a decent possible upside. It’s a good signing whether it’s a “steal” or not.

    • phillyphanatic77 - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:57 PM

      Did Flyers fans write this article about him? There are unwanted free agents who turn it around ALL the time. Just last summer Mason Raymond accepted a PTO with the Maple Leafs, had a renaissance season, and cashed in this summer. Del Zotto is far from a guarantee, but he’s also not a guaranteed failure.

    • moarjam - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:59 PM

      Well he had a pretty productive season a few years ago when he hit 40 pts…The guy isn’t David Rundblad or some other former 1st rounder coasting around the league on “potential.”
      MDZ and been up and produced.

    • santaclaude2828 - Aug 26, 2014 at 3:22 PM

      Defenseman usually take longer to mature than forwards. The fact that he is only 24 and has had offensive success makes him valuable in his own right. He brings speed, good pick skills, and a youthful body that the flyers can use to supplement the vets on their blue line. I wanted the flyers to take a chance on him before timonen went down. Let’s not write the book on him just yet. He still has a lot of room to grow.

  5. pitpenguinsrulez - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:28 PM

    1975 I just had to.

    • ibieiniid - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:30 PM

      Kansas City I just had to.

    • flyerspsu - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:13 PM

      cool story

  6. flyboystransport - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:26 PM

    Not sold on him but let’s hope I’m wrong

  7. mcphillthy - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:06 AM

    It looks like a lot of people already have this kids expectations set for what he has to do this year. For a million a season can you think of a better ‘band-aid’ to put on the wound?
    Another smart decision by hextall.
    I don’t have any expectations for this kid to reach. He has a ton of potential and I hope he reaches it to the fullest. But if he falls short he’s still only 1.3m

  8. billiam55 - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:11 AM

    lol the only thing del zotto is gonna bolster are the anger and frustration of flyers fans.

    • phillyphanatic77 - Aug 21, 2014 at 7:35 AM

      We’re completely used to maddeningly inconsistent blueliners with all-star caliber tools… we’ve watched Brayden Coburn since he was 21 and Luke Schenn the past two seasons.

  9. kastout11 - Aug 21, 2014 at 9:26 AM

    He will be a 5 or 6, and he should get some time on the power play. Expectations are pretty low, but if anything Philly gets from him will be a bonus, and maybe he does regain his form from a few years ago. A lot of times players really perform when they have a chip on their shoulder, and he definitely has a chip on his shoulder.

    • mcphillthy - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:51 PM

      I agree with you completely. MDZ was a good signing. Tons of upside and no risk. Unless he flops this year I fully expect him to be in orange and black for a few seasons. The kid is 24. He hasn’t even hit his peak yet. Everyone is so quick to write him off but he has already shown what he is capable of producing. I still love this signing by hextall

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