Now that the wait is over for defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who agreed to a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night, he appears to be as motivated as ever to get back on the ice and prove the skeptics wrong.
Del Zotto's contract reportedly is worth $1.3 million, which is about half of the $2.55 million he earned in 2013-14.
The 24-year-old left-shot defenseman acknowledged that he wants to put a tumultuous 2013-14 campaign behind him and start anew with an organization that has a passionate fan base, solid coaching staff and a rivalry against the New York Rangers, the team with which he spent four-plus seasons.
SOG: 90 | +/-: -9
The first regular-season game between the Flyers and Rangers is Nov. 19 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
"The rivalry with the Rangers wasn't the sole factor in making this decision to play for Philadelphia; I just feel this is a great opportunity for me," Del Zotto said. "I love the way this team is built. It seemed to be a perfect fit overall."
The signing of Del Zotto, a first-round pick (No. 20) of the Rangers in the 2008 NHL Draft, was announced hours after general manager Ron Hextall disclosed that 39-year-old defenseman Kimmo Timonen had been diagnosed with blood clots and was being treated in Finland. Timonen, who signed a one-year extension in June, isn't expected to be at training camp so Hextall quickly moved to get Del Zotto on board.
Del Zotto had three goals, 16 points and 18 penalty minutes in 67 regular-season games last season with the Rangers and Nashville Predators. He was traded by the Rangers on Jan. 22 to the Predators, where he had one goal and five points in 25 games. Nashville did not tender Del Zotto a contract, making him an unrestricted free agent.
"Last year didn't go as well as I would have liked or what I had planned it to be and it was a bit of a humbling season," Del Zotto said. "I don't know [what went wrong in Nashville]. I had a great rookie season, my second season didn't go as well and my third season was my best [41 points in 77 games with the Rangers]."
Del Zotto said he began to lose confidence when he wasn't getting time on specialty teams.
"I was just playing 5-on-5 but no special teams and, for whatever reason, came out of the lineup and it kind of spiraled down from there," he said. "I lost my confidence early in the season, and this is a confidence game. If you don't believe in yourself or your abilities to make the plays that you need to, it's tough."
Del Zotto sees a new start in Philadelphia.
"You look down their roster and there's a lot of talent, a lot of good players and some veterans," Del Zotto said. "There's a lot of offensive ability, and I think that's where I can be able to step in and move that puck up to a lot of those forwards who can make plays, be able to join the rush and help out and contribute offensively. I'm just happy to be another piece of the puzzle."
Del Zotto spoke briefly with Flyers coach Craig Berube on Tuesday evening. It remains to be seen if Del Zotto will be put alongside Timonen's defense partner in 2013-14, Braydon Coburn, or Luke Schenn.
"I know Luke Schenn quite a bit," Del Zotto said. "I've watched a lot of games and played against him a lot. He plays the game hard and plays it the right way, and we'd complement each other pretty well because it's two different styles of play."