NHL Free Agents 2012: Update on New York Rangers RFA Michael Del Zotto

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NHL Free Agents 2012: Update on New York Rangers RFA Michael Del Zotto
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New York Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto is one of the notable restricted free agents that still hasn't signed a new contract this summer.

General manager Glen Sather recently gave an update on the situation (via Andrew Gross of the The Record):

“He’ll come to his senses,” Sather said. “We’ve been down this road before with guys that just have come out of their entry-level contracts. We’ve offered him a fair contract. We just have to see if it changes in the new CBA.”

Sather added that any negotiations with players has pretty much come to a halt with the NHL and NHLPA looking at a lockout after the current CBA expires on Sept. 15.

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Even though the Rangers need to make sure they sign Del Zotto before training camp commences later this month (training camp dates could change if there's a lockout), it's not surprising that the 22-year-old defenseman hasn't signed yet. Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban is another notable RFA that has not signed a new contract.

Del Zotto set career highs in goals (10), assists (31), points (41) and plus/minus (20) last season. He was a key part of the Rangers blue line and was the team's highest scoring defenseman.

It was important for Del Zotto to have a strong 2011-12 season, because he really struggled in 2010-11 after a fine rookie campaign. Last season was a major step in his development, and there's no question he has the skills needed to be one of the best offensive defenseman in the NHL in the near future.

Del Zotto is a fine player, but the Rangers cannot overpay to keep him long-term. Ryan McDonagh is an RFA after next season, and veteran Dan Girardi is an unrestricted free agent the summer after that. Both players are more important than Del Zotto.

Del Zotto would be wise to sign a deal for two years at about $2-2.5 million per season. That would allow him to earn a significant raise above what he's made in his NHL career thus far, and give him plenty of incentive to have two great seasons so he can earn a rich long-term deal.

It will be interesting to see how the negotiations between Del Zotto and the Blueshirts develop when the new CBA is finally completed, but it would be surprising if Del Zotto wasn't in the Rangers training camp when it starts.

Nicholas Goss is an NHL lead writer at Bleacher Report. He also was the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston.  

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