Blue Jackets’ Del Zotto Expresses Desire to Stay in Columbus

Michael Del Zotto is one of a few Columbus Blue Jackets’ players who’s found himself in trade rumors given where the team is at in the standings. On Wednesday, he expressed interest in staying in Columbus after this season.

Even despite a tough season for the Blue Jackets, Del Zotto still thinks this is an ideal situation for him.

“That (staying in Columbus) would be an ideal circumstance for me,” Del Zotto said. “I’ve enjoyed my time here. Obviously we’ve had some struggles here. We’d like to be in a better position in the standings for sure. The group of guys have been great. I really feel like I fit in. I feel like it’s been a nice opportunity for me being a veteran guy and not a ton of experience within the locker room so I think it’s been a good fit.”

“As far as what happens next, that’s out of my control. I’d like to stay. I’ve made that very clear along the way here. I also understand it’s a business. I understand where we’re at in the standings…I’m just trying to help this team win every single day that I’m here and whatever happens after that is out of my control.”

Del Zotto Has Trade Experience

Del Zotto has been traded two previous times in his NHL career. In 2014, he was traded to the Nashville Predators. In 2019, he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks. In both cases, the trades happened in January in advance of that season’s trading deadline. So he knows what this experience is like.

With the likes of David Savard and Nick Foligno in trade rumors, I asked Del Zotto how he leaves the noise on the outside and could he help his teammates who are going through it now?

YouTube player

“The noise is the noise. Again it’s out of your control. (I’m) just trying to enjoy each day. The only advice I give to people, I still give to myself to this day, it is tough. Moving is never easy having to get to know 23+ new players, staff, management, new city. All that is very tough especially in the middle of a season while you’re trying to go to (that) team and help them out. Again that’s out of your control.”

“We’re pretty fortunate to do what we do. But just trying to enjoy each day, enjoy your teammates and keep building upon the relationships and friendships you’re making within the locker room.”

There’s Reasons to Keep Del Zotto

From a roster and cap standpoint, there is a path for Del Zotto to stay on. If Savard is traded as expected, that will leave a huge hole in the top four. Perhaps someone like Andrew Peeke will be ready for a full-time role there. But in the meantime, having someone like him around is good both on and off the ice.

Del Zotto started this season as perhaps the most consistent defender they had. He’s a good puck-moving defensemen who can make plays and is responsible in his own end. He sometimes does a little too much out there which led to his recent scratches. But there is no denying how much he cares about this team or his teammates. His presence as a veteran leader is appreciated by the team.

Head coach John Tortorella talked about Del Zotto’s progression from when he knew him early in New York versus now in Columbus.

John Tortorella Columbus Blue Jackets
John Tortorella sees the value in a player like Michael Del Zotto. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

“Mike has always been that type of guy as far as competing and trying to help the team win,” Tortorella said. “I think he brings an element to the room. I think he can keep guys loose also by just his personality but also I think he’s gained a ton of respect in the room for how hard he does play.”

“I’ve watched him transform from a 19-year old to now 31. I’ve seen the whole spectrum of it all. He’s handles himself very well.” The key for Mike as we’ve talked about here the last few weeks is making sure we’re in that fine line where he’s not trying too hard where he chases the game. For Michael to chase the game puts him in a bad spot. He’s given us some good minutes this year.”

Del Zotto would be inexpensive to keep and would provide a good value to the room. The team clearly likes him. We’ll see what management decides to do by Monday and beyond if he has a future with the Blue Jackets.

Side Dishes

  • The Blue Jackets got the worst news they could with Boone Jenner. He had surgery for a broken thumb and is expected to miss approximately six weeks. Assuming no playoffs, he’s done for the season. That’s a huge blow to a team who needs his presence in the lineup.
  • Nick Foligno said that they even missed him in the few minutes on Tuesday he wasn’t on the ice. There’s no one on this roster that can do what Jenner does in terms of the way he plays and the energy it provides his team. Asked how to replace that, Foligno said the best way to honor him is to step up and take on more for him. Foligno said he would play a bigger role if he was asked. But it will be interesting to see how the Blue Jackets handle defensive zone responsibilities.
  • As for Foligno and the deadline, he admitted talking to management but didn’t want to get into what was said. Given the recent injuries to Jenner and Riley Nash, trading Foligno now would be a tough ask. But if someone steps up with the right offer, a trade could happen.
  • Which teams could Foligno end up on? My own thoughts here but I’ll give you three. The Maple Leafs, The Bruins. The Avalanche. All would chase a Stanley Cup and each has some sort of connection. Foligno has Ontario ties with Sudbury. Boston Children’s Hospital was instrumental in his daughter Milana’s treatments that his family gave the hospital $1 million. And there’s plenty of former Blue Jackets on the Avalanche. If he does go, he will help someone. He knows it’s a business so we’ll see where it goes.
  • Both Alex Texier and Liam Foudy were put on the taxi squad Wednesday. I believe this is cap related. Their hits don’t count given their salary while on the squad so there is savings. We might see more of this down the stretch.
  • Gus Nyquist practiced again in full on Wednesday and completed the session. It seems inevitable he’s back within a week. It just depends on his shoulder and if he feels he’s ready. Stay tuned.
  • Seth Jones and Jack Roslovic missed practice but Tortorella did not provide an update as to their potential status for Thursday.