At the beginning of the season, none of us really knew how long Michael Del Zotto's tenure in Philadelphia would be, and it's entirely possible that it could come to an end shortly.
Del Zotto, who sat on the free agent market for weeks with no takers, was brought into Philadelphia on a one-year contract last summer. It was a desperation move by Ron Hextall, who had no choice but to try and fill the void left by Kimmo Timonen.
That move ended up looking pretty smart, as Del Zotto has proven to be a decent low-risk pickup. Now, with the Flyers pretty much out of playoff contention and Del Zotto being a fairly attractive trade chip, should Hextall try to parlay that move for some assets?
The case for trading Del Zotto
It would be hard to argue that Del Zotto has been a bad defenseman, especially on this team. So this isn't one of those cases where we hope that Hextall is able to dupe some dumb general manager like Dave Nonis into giving up assets for crap ( ... that would be the "Nicklas Grossmann case").
Instead, I can think of two main reasons why the Flyers should get rid of Del Zotto.
The first basically comes down to whether or not the Flyers think he's worth keeping around. If Hextall doesn't see Del Zotto as a part of the future -- which is entirely possible, given the plethora of solid defensive prospects in the system -- it probably makes sense to get rid of him now instead of later. After this season, I highly doubt that Del Zotto will be a free agent for much longer than July 1, and if teams want him, make them pay.
The second reason is somewhat related. I'm not entirely sure what Craig Berube thinks of Del Zotto, but if his usage (or non-usage in some cases) speaks for anything, I'd hazard a guess that he's not too high on Del Zotto's defensive abilities. I'd hate for Hextall to sign a guy that Berube has no intention of using properly. If that's the case, why keep him around?
The case for keeping Del Zotto
As I mentioned above, Del Zotto's been a pretty nice surprise this season. He's been one of the few bright spots on a generally terrible defense, and for that reason alone, it might be a good idea to keep him around. Sure, maybe some of the praise has been overblown, but it would be hard to argue that he's been bad.
Some of the other reasons for keeping Del Zotto here are centered around some pretty standard arguments. He's a young defenseman who is still learning, came to the NHL as a fairly highly touted prospect, and probably has a higher ceiling than most thought at the end of last season. If holding on through some of his struggles results in the Flyers landing a solid top-four defenseman, we'll all say it was worth the ride.
Another thing to point out is that Del Zotto is a pending restricted free agent. Since other team's won't be able to throw him offers, the Flyers could negotiate themselves into another low-risk contract. It paid off this year, so why not take another chance?