The New York Rangers have parted ways with oft-criticized defenseman Michael Del Zotto, sending him to Nashville in exchange for fellow defenseman Kevin Klein.
The trade, first reported by TSN’s Darren Dreger, is pending a confirmation call.
UPDATE: Deal approved, per the Rangers…
#NYR TRADE: Defenseman Kevin Klein has been acquired from the Nashville Predators in exchange for defenseman Michael Del Zotto
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) January 22, 2014
“Michael gives us another young, gifted left-handed shooting defenseman with significant offensive upside,” Preds GM David Poile said in a statement. “We look forward to his presence on our already talented young blue line, further balancing our defensive corps.”
The move marks an end to Del Zotto’s stay in head coach Alain Vingeault’s doghouse. Since taking over from John Tortorella as Rangers’ bench boss, Vigneault has been highly critical of Del Zotto (see here and here), banishing him to the press box as a healthy scratch on a few occasions.
Del Zotto has enjoyed tremendous success in the past, though, scoring a career-high 41 points in 77 games during the 2011-12 campaign. Despite his defensive shortcomings, he is a talented offensive weapon on the blueline.
The 23-year-old, a former first-round pick, is in the last of a two-year, $5.1 million deal. He’s a RFA at season’s end.
Klein, 29, isn’t as well-known as Del Zotto but has emerged as a quality blueliner for the Preds in recent years. He signed a five-year, $14.5 million deal just prior to the lockout — carrying an affordable $2.9 million cap hit — but has struggled offensively this season, with just three points through 47 games.
In 2011-12, Klein set a career-high by scoring 21 points in just 66 games played, and had four points in 10 playoff appearances. He has been struggling with a foot injury this year, which is believed to have hampered his play.
It’s worth noting that New York and Nashville solidified the right and left sides of their defense with this deal. Klein’s a righty, which is something Vigneault wanted for the Rangers; Del Zotto is a lefty, which balances out the Preds’ blueline.
This deal marks the second significant move made by Poile in recent weeks. Last Monday, Poile shipped one of his big free-agent acquisitions — forward Matt Hendricks — in exchange for Edmonton goalie Devan Dubnyk.