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Klein for Del Zotto

by Stu Grimson / Nashville Predators

Today, the Predators traded mainstay defender Kevin Klein to the New York Rangers in exchange for Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto. A few thoughts on the net impact on the Predators roster on the ice and in terms of the economics.

On the Ice

Klein was steady in his own end; a very capable defender slotted typically in the Preds’ second or third pairing. A hard-nosed player (see Antoine Roussel on 01.20.14) who was not afraid to activate up ice. Though “Kleiner” was not a person you looked to for offense consistently. A player like this will be missed; a great shot blocker and he could be a calming influence in your own end.

On the other hand, the most notable characteristic Del Zotto brings to the table is an upside up-ice. And for obvious reasons, David Poile is looking to boost production. Stepping into the Rangers roster directly out of the OHL, Del Zotto posted a remarkable 37 points, including nine goals, in 2009-10. In 2011-12, he set a career best scoring 10 goals while posting 41 total points. There’s lots to like here, providing Del Zotto is able to overcome the apparent sporadic play in his own end that saw him scratched from the Rangers lineup for several games earlier this season.

The Money

Klein is a fair value with a cap hit of $2.9m for this and the next four years. That number would be considered in range for a defenseman ranked anywhere from third to fifth on an NHL roster. So if you’re New York, you get cap certainty on a mainstay in your lineup.

Moving Klein gives you space today and going forward to make even significant adjustments to your lineup for a team that may be reconsidering whether it satisfactorily restored its identity last summer. Especially considering that you just moved Matt Hendricks and freed up nearly $5 million for the next three years in the aggregate.

Poile now has the cap (and budget) room to add key pieces up front if the right move presents itself – not to mention the flexibility to resign his newly-acquired defenseman if he proves to be a good fit. Del Zotto is a restricted free agent in the coming summer. He is apt to want something north of his current $2.5 million. However, Poile holds measurable leverage given that Del Zotto is coming off a lackluster first half and the Predators hold a right to match any other offer.

Taken together, the Hendricks/Klein transactions created significant cap space for 2014-15 and beyond. A not so subtle signal that other moves and/or signings are to come? Think so.

See you around the rink.

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