A week ago, the Nashville Predators sent forward Matt Hendricks to Edmonton for goalie Devan Dubnyk. Seven days later, almost to the hour, Nashville made another trade: This time moving Kevin Klein to the New York Rangers in exchange for fellow blueliner Michael Del Zotto.
Today’s deal might not make as much sense to the casual observer as last week’s did: The Predators had a near desperate need for an upgrade in goal due to the Pekka Rinne injury, but as a defensive corps, the Predators blueliners appeared to be clicking.
But there are reasons for this swap as well.
Before we list our pros and cons on the deal, here are Predators general manager David Poile’s comments on the defenseman swap:
“Del Zotto gives us another young, gifted, left-handed shooting defenseman with significant upside. We look forward to his presence on our already talented young blue line, further balancing our defensive corps.”
Pros/cons of trading Kevin Klein for Michael Del Zotto:
- Left-handed shot: Del Zotto has a left-handed shot that the Predators need in their top-four defensemen pairings if they see Seth Jones, Roman Josi and Shea Weber as their long-term plan on the blue line.
- Age: The former Rangers blueliner is just 23 and still has plenty of time to grow and mature under Predators coaches Phil Housely and Barry Trotz.
- Offensive Ability: Del Zotto has been recognized as being a very fast skater and holding a powerful shot. Klein does not have as much talent on offense.
- Contract?: This one is pretty debatable. The Predators did take Kevin Klein’s deal with four more years on it ($2.9 million per year until 2017-18) off the books, but in exchange they added a player in Del Zotto who will be a restricted free agent after this season, making a little bit less at $2.55 million.
- Upside: There’s little doubt the Predators are banking the recently missing ability of Del Zotto will return soon and that the young blueliner will blossom outside of the bright lights of New York. If Del Zotto responds well to the Predators coaching and system, he could be re-signed and then grow into a fixture on defense, alongside Josi, Jones and Weber.
- Proven Talent: It took several seasons for Predators fans to alter their perception of Klein, but in his play over nine seasons with Nashville, the defenseman has really grown and raised his level of play.
- Jack-of-all-trades: Klein had settled into the Predators No. 3 spot on the defensive depth chart and shown he can play in any circumstance. Whether on the penalty kill, five-on-five or even some on the power play (where he wasn’t as much of an asset) Klein was out on ice helping to slow down the opposition.
- Nashville D corps gets even younger: It usually is good to have young players in the wings ready to develop and take on larger roles, but have the Predators gone too far? Nashville’s second-oldest D-man is now Viktor Bartley–at the ripe old age of 25. All told, five of the Predators seven defensemen on the roster are 23 or younger.
In the short-term, the Predators have probably taken a step back. It will take time for Del Zotto to learn the Predators system and he hasn’t shown he can handle the role of being the team’s No. 3 or 4 defenseman, yet. But if Del Zotto shows progress over the next few months and earns a reasonable contract extension from Nashville, he could become the left-handed and more offensively gifted D-man the Predators have needed to pair with Seth Jones.
We’ll have more after Poile addresses the media in about an hour from now.