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November 20, 2013 | 10:31am ET
No panic deals for Blueshirts
 Michael Del Zotto's name is out there, but there is a lot behind the possibility of trading him.

NEW YORK, NY -- With the temperature dropping and Fall turning to Winter, a team's true colors begin to show and player movement begins to pick up.

For the New York Rangers, a disappointing start to the season has leveled off, but there are still a significant amount of holes to address.

The hot name popping up on everybody's radar has been Michael Del Zotto, the 23-year-old defenseman who sat out Tuesday night's tilt against the Boston Bruins as a healthy scratch -- for the third straight night.

Marred by inconsistency, Del Zotto's ability to contribute offensively has tailed off this season. But more importantly, he has been asked to become a complete player in addition to providing an offensive spark on the back end. He has not.

"I've been told there is more to his game than what I have seen, and we need that from him," New York Ranger Head Coach Alain Vigneault told reporters in anticipation of the Nov. 16 games against the New Jersey Devils.

Del Zotto's value has never been lower than it is now. In 2011-12, he finished with 41 points in 77 games and last year he posted 21 points in 46 games. This year, he has a paltry four points in 16 games. Despite being in his fifth NHL season, he is still putting those numbers up with extremely sheltered minutes. According to Behind the Net, he started 59.7 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone. Only Roman Hamrlik and Matt Gilroy had higher offensive zone starts and they played 16 and 15 games, respectively.

If Del Zotto still holds value, it's in potential.

Still just 23, Del Zotto has shown his offensive prowess in spurts. A nice end-to-end rush, or a well-placed breakout pass, but he continues to make mistakes that a fifth-year player should not be making.

Despite starting in the offensive zone 59.7 percent of the time, he finished 51.2 percent of his shifts in his own end last season.

The smartest thing for the Rangers would be to hold on to Del Zotto. At this point, with the salary cap as tight as it is, and so many teams left in contention, plus Del Zotto's value being at an all time low, it makes little sense to move him.

That won't stop the rumors of course.

If the Rangers were to trade Del Zotto, New York Ranger brass would have to be completely comfortable in the ability of Dylan McIlrath to step onto that bottom pairing. The former 10th overall pick has no NHL experience at this point, but got a strong look in camp. He struggles with speedy players -- watching him in prospect camp, he was blown by a few times, but also displayed decent vision with the puck.

For the Rangers, there are no easy trades right now. Guys like Taylor Pyatt and Benoit "offensive zone penalty" Pouliot have struggled playing their bottom-six roles, but also hold little value. If the Rangers were to acquire anything of value, it would likely requiring moving a top prospect like J.T. Miller.

Miller, in his second season is brimming with potential. He hasn't found a consistent place with the Rangers yet, but it would be foolish for the team to give up on him. He has shown he can make plays with his hands and has an above average shot, but he still struggles with the speed of the game. Something that can be expected with from a 20-year-old.

The only way the Rangers should consider moving Miller, would be in a package to bring in an even more promising young talent -- read: Nail Yakupov.

For the Rangers, they should be set offensively when the club is fully healthy. The top line of Derek Stepan, being flanked by Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello, has been stellar so far this season. They push the pace of play every time they're on the ice and are teeming with offensive creativity.

Kreider deflected attention to his linemates after the team's 2-1 loss to Boston on Nov. 19, saying, "[Stepan and Zuccarello are] unbelievable players. It doesn't matter who you put with them."

With Rick Nash back in the lineup, they have at least five guys that could play a top-six role, not including the aforementioned top line: Nash, Ryan Callahan, Carl Hagelin, Derick Brassard and Brad Richards. The depth is there, with some room for call ups in case of injury.

Exercise patience Ranger fans. This team's shooting luck will eventually turn around.

After scoring a measly two goals in three games, Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman was extremely positive, noting that he believed they could have won all three "with all the chances."

It's not time for the Rangers to make a move and really there is no move that fits. As the season drags on, injuries and poor play could change that, but for now, with cap uncertainty, it makes sense to stay put and stand pat.

Finally, one thing to take note of is the amount of contracts coming off the books. There are so many free agents on this squad, if things turn south very quickly, they can certainly sell off a lot of assets. But it's very early to make any assessment, especially considering how truly terrible the Metropolitan Division has been this year.

There's a strong chance there will be no clear picture on this division until extremely late in this position, putting a lot of team's roster on lockdown.

Plus, have NHL GMs evened figured out the playoff seeding system yet?

Patrick Kearns is a Columnist for TheFourthPeriod.com and the New York Correspondent for The Fourth Period Magazine. Follow him on Twitter.
 

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