Well I’m never one to not admit I was wrong or I guess in this case be fed a bad scoop. Since an NHL pro scout told me on January 14 that the trade market was “clogged” up and I subsequently wrote that in my January 15 “Murph’s Musings”, there have been four NHL trades including two that day. So did that scout and myself misread the market or did the GM’s making these trades just decide these trades had to be made? Well in the case of the most recent deal that saw defenseman Michael Del Zotto be traded from the Rangers to the Predators in exchange for defenseman Kevin Klein on Wednesday, that was simply a trade the Rangers had to make.
It’s been clear that both Del Zotto and the Rangers have wanted to part ways for a while now. After spending plenty of time in former Rangers head coach John Tortorella’s doghouse last season, Del Zotto found himself in the same place with new coach Alain Vigneault as a healthy scratch for nine games, before being back in for the 10 games prior to Wednesday’s trade. When yours truly spoke with him after a morning skate in Montreal back in November, let’s just say he wasn’t hiding his feelings for the coach and being a healthy scratch and speaking to a Rangers source recently, the organization had come to the conclusion that it just wasn’t going to work for Del Zotto in New York. While healthy scratches can serve as wake up calls for some players, they just distanced the player and the team in this situation.
Following the trade, my good buddy Chuck Basties — aka: “Little Hartnell” — and I were bouncing the pros and cons of the deal around and Chuck made some valid points that the Rangers maybe could’ve gotten more in the deal considering the 23-year-old Del Zotto’s upside. While that may very well be true, New York still got something they’ve been sorely lacking: a right-handed defenseman that will allow the struggling but talented John Moore to move to his natural left side. They also get something they haven’t had enough of since trading forward Brandon Dubinsky and allowing Brandon Prust and that is leadership and grit. They get that in Klein as witnessed in what was one of the most spirited fights of the season with Klein and Stars forward Antoine Roussel battling it out this past Monday. But they will get an all-around gritty style with Klein, not just fighting and he will be a steady presence on that blue line that is locked in for $2.9 million per season for the next four seasons.
Meanwhile, the Predators get another young, skilled, puck-moving defenseman in Del Zotto who is surely happy to get a fresh start in Nashville and is a restricted free agent this summer. As Basties and I agreed, with so much depth in terms of young puck-moving defensemen, the Predators likely and logical next move would be to dangle one of these young blueliners for some scoring help up front.
–That Klein-Roussel bout Monday got plenty of play on Twitter and also plenty of attention from their teammates. But of course the anti-fighting masses that somehow feel they know better than the players how the NHL should be played and run were quiet and ignored this telling quote from Predators forward Eric Nystrom that reflects what many players feel for those who throw their gloves down for their teammates:
“It was just a great scrap,” Predators forward Nystrom said. “I’ve been in a few of those, and the bottom line is that that is what takes the most courage in the whole sport. Dropping the gloves and engaging like that for your teammates. … The guys responded really well from that.”
— Speaking of hating on hockey, Peter Gammons decided to chime in on Twitter on the Flames-Canucks line brawl off the opening faceoff last Saturday.
“Calgary and Vancouver last night reiterated why the NHL is a minor sport,” Gammons tweeted.
Then on Wednesday Seahawks cornerback and lightning rod for controversy decided to deflect the negative attention to him on the violence in hockey, citing the Canucks-Flames brawl as well and asking why he’s called a “thug”?
“Look at hockey” Sherman said.
Well Sherman and Gammons should examine their own sports more. There’s plenty to criticize there and I’d rather have two players drop their gloves and square off to settle a difference than get beaned in the head or take a low blow to the knee resulting in a torn ACL and MCL.
“But when it comes down to it, this is Craig MacTavish’s team. He is the GM. He makes the calls, and he is accountable for building a team that can compete for the Stanley Cup — year in and year out for years to come. That’s our vision. We are committed to it — and we’re confident that we are on the right track.”
If that’s not a veiled threat or kiss of death, I’m not sure what it is. It’s no secret that the Oilers themselves hyped this current team and their new head coach Dallas Eakins up too much. Obviously they finally recognized their deficiency in goal last week trading Devan Dubnyk and acquiring Ben Scrivens and I’m guessing Scrivens won’t be the answer. But the one area that MacTavish and his staff really miscalculated on was the blue line. I understand that they felt they were getting Stanley Cup experience and leadership signing Andrew Ference to a four-year deal worth $13 million but at 34 Ference is simply not worth that and they should’ve been aiming higher as far as defenseman go on the free agent market. If MacTavish wants to keep his job, he should do everything he can to somehow pry away Shea Weber from the cash-strapped Predators and if in process he can keep his first round pick, draft a defenseman. In fact, draft a defenseman in every round!