"You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away and know when to run."
Kenny Rogers delivered this philosophical outlook on life nearly 35 years ago in his classic song, "The Gambler."
The Blueshirts backliner had a cap hit of $1,087,500 in 2012, which was the last year of his entry-level deal.
Now, its negotiation time.
Not good enough for the player, who wants to get a substantial raise.
The Rangers want him to get substantially serious.
But could this also just be posturing on the side of Rangers management?
Will the gap between Del Zotto's camp and Rangers management allow another team to step in and sign him?
Should the Rangers settle this thing and come to terms with No. 4?
Read on to find out what I think about the situation.
All salaries listed in this article courtesy of capgeek.com
The verdict is in.
I am here to defend the defenseman.
In my opinion, Michael Del Zotto belongs on Broadway.
Here are three key reasons why the Rangers must sign him.
He's a big part of the Blueshirts' blueline core
Along with Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, Del Zotto is part of one of the best d-man foursomes in the National Hockey League. The Rangers were second in the league in goals-against average last season at 2.22.
Del Zotto was undoubtedly a key part of that.
He's a d-man with point-scoring potential
In 77 regular season games during the 2012 campaign, Del Zotto registered 10 goals, 31 assists and was plus-20—good for 25th in the entire league. And he had put up 10 more points in 20 playoff games, including the game- and series-winning goal against the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
He's a player with plenty of character
After he made the NHL All-Rookie Team in 2010, No. 4 had a dreadful 2011 campaign. He scored only two goals in 47 regular season games for the Rangers, and was sent down to the Connecticut Whale in early January to rediscover his game. Coincidentally, McDonagh was called up at the same time.
"I'm not going to get into it," Tortorella said on a conference call. "I don't think it's fair for me or Michael to talk about that publicly. I think Michael understands that this is part of the process. Sometimes players may not agree with it, but really, it's not up to the players."
But what was up to Del Zotto? His commitment to return to the Rangers, which he did successfully last season.
Up Next: Where the money should be for MDZ
Michael Del Zotto's statistics courtesy of rangers.nhl.com
So what do I think Michael Del Zotto should be paid?
Let's take a look at the 2013 salary cap hits of other defensemen taken in the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft:
Drew Doughty: $7 million
Zach Bogosian: $2.5 million
Alex Pietrangelo: $3,166,666 million
Luke Schenn: $3.6 million
Tyler Myers: $5.5 million
Erik Karlsson: $6.5 million
Jake Gardiner: $1,116,667 million
John Carlson: $3,966,667 million
By using the salaries of these blueliners as a basis for what Del Zotto's dotted-line commitment should be, we can clearly see that he doesn't deserve to be paid in the class of players such as Norris Trophy Winner Karlsson, Stanley Cup winner Doughty or the unflappable Carlson.
He doesn't deserve the millions that the Buffalo Sabres overpaid Myers. But, he should be closer to Pietrangelo, who outscored Del Zotto by only 10 points last season (51 to 41) and to Schenn, whom MDZ outscored by 19 points (41 to 22).
With all these figures noted, I believe the Rangers can and should go a little higher than their $2.5 million per season offer for the Del Zotto contract.
My take: A three-year deal at $2.75 million per season is right where the MDZ contract should be. It more than doubles Del Zotto's annual bank account and it helps the Rangers maintain fiscal responsibility going forward, which is of paramount importance in the Salary Cap Era.
Up Next: The Bonus Slide—Del Zotto scores big. No, its not what you think.
It wasn't that long ago. Although it does seem like forever.
May 12, 2012.
The Rangers clung to a 1-zip lead in Game 7 of last season's Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Washington Capitals.
It was halfway through the third period.
The Madison Square Garden crowd was tense and intense.
Henrik Lundqvist was a brick wall in the Rangers net as the desperate visitors tried like hell to even the score.
The Blueshirts needed an insurance marker to help seal the deal.
Who delivered it?
You guessed it.
Michael Del Zotto.
Game winner and series winner.
Check out the accompanying video to see how opportunistic a player he is.
If you want to keep up with MDZ during the lockout, you can follow him here.