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

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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.”