Now that the initial shock of seeing longtime Nashville Predators defenseman Kevin Klein shipped out of town is wearing off, it's time to take a good hard look at what David Poile has acquired in Michael Del Zotto. What does he bring to the Nashville defense, and what does it mean for the Preds in both the short and long term?
As I wrote back in July, the Predators were entering a bit of a logjam on the right side of the defense between Shea Weber, Seth Jones, Ryan Ellis and Kevin Klein, so as a lefty Del Zotto will fit in nicely on the opposite side, most likely behind Roman Josi on the second pair, and ahead of Mattias Ekholm or Victor Bartley.
Del Zotto is quite a different defenseman than Klein stylistically as well, having posted impressive offensive totals in previous seasons. The following selected data from Extra Skater highlights their differences:
|Player||GP||G||A||P||Pen +/-||CF%||CF% rel||O/DSt%||EVTm%||PPTm%||SHTm%|
|Michael Del Zotto||42||2||9||11||-1||51.10%||-1.60%||60.30%||31.30%||35.50%||5.70%|
Basically, Del Zotto doesn't kill penalties very much, he's more of a power play specialist, and while his possession numbers look a bit better than Klein's, the difference isn't so great to overcome the difference in usage (Del Zotto got more opportunities to start a shift in the offensive zone as compared to defensive, while Klein took the opposite workload).
In a nutshell, we're looking at a bit more offensive jump due to Del Zotto's contributions, at some likely expense on the defensive end of things.
In the end, though, this trade may not be about comparing Del Zotto directly to Klein, but rather how all the pieces fit together. If you consider Del Zotto for Klein a wash, the benefit may well come from allowing Seth Jones and Ryan Ellis to fit into stable roles on the right side. Weber & Jones can take on the tough defensive responsibilities and penalty killing, leaving Ellis the softer minutes, if that's what the coaches want to do. Meanwhile, the left side can roll Josi/Del Zotto/Ekholm and not put anybody into deep water prematurely.
Salary Cap/Budget Implications
By sending Klein out of town, David Poile has cleared a $2.9M cap hit off the books for the next four seasons, but Del Zotto currently makes $2.9 million this season ($2.55M cap hit) and would presumably get some kind of a raise in his next contract, which is due this summer.
Does David Poile lock Del Zotto up for the long term, or use that cap space to address other areas of need? How Del Zotto, Ekholm, and Victor Bartley play down the stretch may determine the approach to that critical issue at the end of the season.
For right now, the Predators' defense corps looks better positioned to compete today as well as foster the development of Jones & Ellis. The long term implications are very much up for grabs, however, as Poile has given himself a bit of flexibility to either commit to Del Zotto as part of the team's core, or move in another direction this summer.
Well done, Mr. Poile. This is the kind of change that I can believe in.