NASHVILLE — The Nashville Predators have swapped defencemen with the New York Rangers, sending right-handed shooter Kevin Klein to New York in exchange for a lefty in Michael Del Zotto.
The Predators announced the trade Wednesday before heading to Vancouver for a four-game road swing. General manager David Poile said they made the trade to try to help themselves get back in the playoff race in the Western Conference. The Predators had 51 points Wednesday, eight out of the final wild-card spot in the West.
“More importantly or most importantly, we think this is a trade for more the long term,” Poile said. “He’s going to be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but as we make the deal, certainly it is our goal to sign him to a longer term contract.”
Del Zotto, 23, has 11 points in 42 games for the Rangers averaging 17 minutes, 44 seconds of ice time per game. The 6-foot, 195-pound Del Zotto was the 20th overall choice by the Rangers in the 2008 draft, and he has 121 career points in 292 career NHL games.
But Del Zotto never seemed to fully fit since coach Alain Vigneault replaced the fired John Tortorella after last season. Del Zotto was a healthy scratch from Vigneault’s lineup for nine games, but was back in for the 10 games before Wednesday’s deal. Del Zotto, who can become a restricted free agent this summer, carries a $2.55 million salary cap charge this season.
Poile said they wanted to swap a defensive defenceman in Klein for someone they believe has some great offensive upside in Del Zotto, noting he had 42 points two years ago for the Rangers.
Klein was one of four right-handed shooting defencemen in Nashville and something the Rangers have wanted. Adding Klein and removing Del Zotto will allow John Moore to move to the left side for the Rangers. Del Zotto is a lefty shooter, who help balance out the Predators with rookie Seth Jones and Ryan also right-handed defencemen along with captain Shea Weber.
“So Del Zotto fits in nicely on the left side,” Poile said. “Where he is going to play, you will have to ask the coach that.”
Klein, 29, was the 37th choice overall in 2003 by Nashville and has played 403 games in nine NHL seasons. He has three points in 47 games this season and ranks 22nd in the NHL with 94 blocked shots. Klein also is under contract through 2017-18 after signing a five-year, $14.5 million deal in September 2012 giving him a $2.9 million salary cap hit each season.
“Thanks everyone!,” Klein wrote on Twitter. “Going to miss the friends I have made in Nashville. But a new chapter in New York.”