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Michael Del Zotto finds himself getting another night off from new Rangers coach Alain Vigneault.
SUNRISE, Fla. – The Rangers may want to temper expectations for a potential trade of Michael Del Zotto if they aren’t going to play him.
Coach Alain Vigneault unexpectedly made Del Zotto a healthy scratch for Wednesday night’s game against the Florida Panthers, marking the defenseman’s fourth healthy scratch in seven games and his fifth this season overall.
Del Zotto, 23, the team’s 20th overall pick in 2008, had been scratched three straight games from Nov. 16 through Nov. 19, but then he reentered the lineup and played better in consecutive wins in Dallas and Nashville. He also played in Monday’s 5-0 loss in Tampa, in which every Ranger except forwards Rick Nash and Carl Hagelin had a night to forget.
On Tuesday, TSN in Canada reported there has been a “back and forth” between the Rangers and the Ottawa Senators about a potential deal for Del Zotto. TSN’s Darren Dreger said Senators GM Bryan Murray threw out the names of depth forwards Erik Condra and Colin Greening and defenseman Eric Gryba, but that the proposed deal was “currently not a fit for the Rangers.”
It’s unsure what GM Glen Sather thinks he’ll get in return for Del Zotto, though, if he’s not on the ice.
The best fit for the Rangers (12-12-0) actually would be for Del Zotto to remain in the lineup and play more effectively, as he’s shown capable of doing in the past. Clearly, though, he has fallen steeply out of favor with Vigneault, and if those three consecutive scratches indicated Del Zotto was in the coach’s doghouse, then Wednesday’s scratch confirmed it may not be long before Del Zotto is in someone else’s house altogether.
Del Zotto is in the final year of a two-year contract with a $ 2.55 million annual cap hit. He does not want to leave New York. Early in the season when asked about the Daily News about trade rumors involving his name, Del Zotto said that trade chatter is out of his control, but his preference would be to remain a Ranger.
He told the Daily News he was “not happy” when taken out of the lineup Nov. 16 in Montreal.
It would be a risk to trade Del Zotto because one of the Rangers’ strengths is their defensive depth, but dealing Del Zotto would deplete that reserve.
Before Wednesday’s game, Vigneault listed the following reasons for putting Justin Falk in over Del Zotto: “A combination (of what I saw against Tampa Bay), a combination of who we’re playing tonight. We just need a little bit more bite back there, and Falk brings us that.”
Asked what third-pair defenseman John Moore, 23, brings that Del Zotto has not, Vigneault said: “I think John is a real smooth skater. For me he’s got – like Michael, two skilled players. I just feel right now that John has shown that he’s a little bit better skater, can jump up in the play, can beat the forecheck. He’s shown me he can beat the forecheck on a more consistent basis than Michael has shown me so far.”
Moore is minus-three with four points (two goals) and 10 penalty minutes in 24 games, averaging 15:48 of ice time. Del Zotto is minus-six (tied with Dan Girardi and Marc Staal) with four points (one goal) and four penalty minutes in 19 games, averaging 18:03 of ice time.
DORSETT GAME-TIME DECISION
Vigneault said forward Derek Dorsett sprained his wrist in Monday’s 5-0 loss to Tampa and would be a game-time decision Wednesday. If Dorsett determined following warmups that he could not play, left wing Taylor Pyatt – who was taken off the injured reserve list – would play for the first time since Nov. 7.