Flyers sign Michael Del Zotto to 1-year deal

Flyers sign Michael Del Zotto to 1-year deal
August 5, 2014, 7:15 pm

Michael Del Zotto has shown flashes of promise in his short career. In 2011-12 with the New York Rangers, Del Zotto scored 10 goals to go along with 31 assists in 77 games. (USA Today Images)

It didn’t take the Flyers very long to fill the apparent hole left by defenseman Kimmo Timonen.

In fact, they got younger and quicker in a hurry, signing 24-year-old free agent Michael Del Zotto of Nashville, whose career has mostly been as a New York Ranger.

Del Zotto agreed to a one-year contract on Tuesday night. The deal is worth $1.3 million, which is about half of the $2.55 million he earned in 2013-14.

Timonen has blood clots in both lungs and his right lower leg. The uncertainty of his availability made it imperative that general manager Ron Hextall do something immediately.

Del Zotto (6-0, 194) is a former first-round pick -- 20th overall in 2008 -- of the Rangers, who had a very successful rookie year (2009-10) under John Tortorella with 37 points. Then, the left-handed shooting defenseman ran into a sophomore slump his next season when he fell out of favor with the club and was banished to the AHL. Some of it had to do with his lifestyle as a young player living in Manhattan.

Regardless, Del Zotto was among the Rangers' top four defensemen by 2011-12 and became even more valuable when Marc Staal was injured. He scored 10 points in 20 playoff games that spring.

“He gets up and down the ice very quickly,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said this past season.

The knock on him has always been his inability to maintain a consistent two-way game. It was why the Predators, who traded for him last January, were reluctant to commit to a long-term contract with him this summer, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent.

When Alain Vigneault took over on Broadway, it was believed Del Zotto, a five-year veteran now, would reap the benefits of a fresh start under a new coach with more ice time and power-play responsibility.

It didn’t work out and GM Glen Sather decided to trade him to the Predators in January.

A longtime friend of former Flyer Steve Eminger, he has a lot of local ties to Philadelphia as Eminger and his wife live here.

The fact that Hextall gave him just a one-year deal indicates the Flyers are offering him the same carrot they gave Steve Mason -- here’s a job, earn it, play well and we’ll talk long term.

It worked for Mason. It’s up to Del Zotto to do the same.

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