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Del Zotto not qualiifed and heads to free agency, who fills the gap?


Jun 30, 2014


Nashville had until 4pm central time to qualify restricted free agent Michael Del Zotto. After attempting to shop him to other teams, the Predators chose not to qualify Del Zotto and allow him to become an unrestricted free agent.

Coming off a two-year, $5.1 million dollar deal, Del Zotto hitting free agency will leave the Predators with four signed defenseman (Weber, Josi, Jones, Bartley) and two qualified RFA defenseman in Ellis and Ekholm. For all intents and purposes, Del Zotto just couldn’t make things work with Nashville and vice versa. In 67 games last season, Del Zotto recorded 11 points (2g, 9a) with the New York Rangers and only five points (1g, 4a) with the Predators in his 25 games with them after his trade earlier in the year.

Another aspect of letting Del Zotto walk was most likely his contract numbers. In his current deal, he was making $2.2 million in 2012-2013 and $2.9 million this season. Expecting the similar or a bump in salary, he would have been near the seventh highest-paid player on Nashville’s roster.

So, now the Predators have to decide what to do to replace Del Zotto. Should everything work out well with Ellis and Ekholm, they’ll have six defenseman to start the season. However, I’m not sure if they’ll continue to keep Victor Bartley in the seventh-defenseman type of role that they did last year. If so, they’ll need another defenseman on the roster.

Currently in the pipeline, Nashville has recently-signed Johan Alm, last year’s draftee Johnathan-Ismael Diaby, and Mikko Vainonen. All three could be a possible option for advancement. If it were to come down to anyone receiving a promotion, though, it would most likely be done during training camp where the coaching staff can get a solid look at all three.

Then again, there is always free agency and the trade market. Josh Gorges could be a favorable option on the blue line to pair up with Seth Jones if the right package could be made with Montreal. Another piece to look at is former Predators defenseman Shane O’Brien, who was just bought out by the Calgary Flames today. Nashville could promote Mattias Ekholm to a pairing with Seth Jones and place O’Brien with Ellis, balancing out the second and third pairings. O’Brien is already familiar with Nashville, playing 80 games for them in 2010-2011 recording nine points (2g, 7a) and 83 penalty minutes.

Regardless of what the Predators do, they were right to let Del Zotto head to free agency. Unfortunately, sometimes a trade (and, in this case, a player) just doesn’t work out for one team or another. In this sense, it’s Nashville who is on the butt-end of the deal. They traded away Kevin Klein and let the return walk without qualifying him. It doesn’t happen this way very often for Predators general manager David Poile, but it’s time to move on. Free Agency begins in less than 24 hours and Nashville can’t spend any time crying over spilled milk.