In their second trade in a week, the Nashville Predators have once again unloaded a lower end player on a long term contract, sending Kevin Klein to the New York Rangers in exchange for Michael Del Zotto. Del Zotto is 6 years younger than Klein, and a restricted free agent at the end of the 2013-14 season.
Del Zotto has struggled to establish himself permanently in New York, despite a 37 point rookie year at the age of 19, and a 41 point campaign two years ago at the age of 21. He also paced for another 37 point season in last year's lockout shortened schedule.
The big problem for Del Zotto though, has always been his play on the defensive side of the puck. As you can see in this statistical breakdown from Extra Skater, Del Zotto's underlying numbers are significantly better than Klein's, but he does play much, much easier minutes.
The two players have very different styles of play, and with Nashville always in search of more offense, it makes a lot of sense for them to grab someone who can help their transition game from the back end.
Klein has five seasons remaining at a fairly reasonable $2.9M per year, but at 29 it seems like the Predators have once again gotten out from underneath a contract that makes little sense going forward. Acquiring the younger and more promising Del Zotto, along with an upgrade in goal in Devan Dubnyk, while getting rid of a $4.75M cap hit for Klein and Matt Hendricks for the next three years, and $2.9M for Klein for another two, looks subtly brilliant.
Upgrading his roster immediately without mortgaging any futures is some great GMing from David Poile.
On the New York Rangers side of the equation, I don't really understand this trade. Looking at Del Zotto's usage, Alain Vigneault was definitely trying to build his value up, but Del Zotto didn't seem to be cooperating very well. It's always possible that his struggles are signs of something more serious for his future, but considering his past performance, I think that's unlikely.
Klein provides New York with yet another defensive defenseman, meaning that Ryan McDonagh will be leaned on even heavier to move the puck out of the zone.