By Roland Alonzi – When Flyers D Michael Del Zotto resigned with the team on a two-year, $7.75 million contract, general manager Ron Hextall was putting a main piece of the Flyers’ future in place. No, I’m not talking about Del Zotto, per se. I am talking about the five blue chip defensive prospects, dubbed the “Fab Five,” currently in the Flyers’ system.

First, let’s take a look at what Del Zotto’s contract means for the Flyers, in terms of value. Sure, the dollars have to be cap-friendly and the numbers have to work for both sides, but when you look at the deal as a whole, there’s an excellent value proposition for the Flyers.

Del Zotto’s contract will count $3.875 million against the cap per year. That projects decent value for the 25-year-old defenseman, who is already a six-year NHL veteran. Del Zotto led all Flyers defensemen last year with 10 goals, and second in points (32) and TOI (21:55) to Mark Streit, who has two years at $5.25 million remaining on his contract.

The Flyers have $24,591,667 dedicated towards eight defensemen, making up 34.73 percent of the team’s payroll. This of course includes MacDonald’s awful $5 million per year contract, which runs through 2019-20.

Del Zotto’s contract stacks up nicely in terms of value with defensemen who are in MDZ’s salary neighborhood. This is especially true considering Del Zotto was horribly mismanaged last season by Craig Berube, shuffling in and out of the lineup.

Josh Gorges D Buffalo Sabres — $3,900,000 (81 GP/0G/6A/-28)

Justin Schultz, Edmonton Oilers — $3,900,000 (46 GP/6G/25A/-8)

Michael Del Zotto, Philadelphia Flyers — $3,875,000 (64 GP/10G/22A/-5)

John-Michael Liles, Carolina Hurricanes — $3,875,000 (57 GP/2G/20A/-9)

Travis Hamonic, NY Islanders — $3,857,143 (71 GP/5G/28A/+15)

Justin Braun, San Jose Sharks — $3,800,000 (82 GP/4G/13A/+19)

John Oduya, Dallas Stars — $3,750,000 (76 GP/2G/8A/+5)

Next, let’s look at MDZ’s contract and the contracts of some of the Flyers other defensemen, how they play into the team’s future and the emergence of some of the Flyers’ top defensive prospects.

Make no mistake: Ron Hextall’s main goal with Del Zotto was to lock him up for the next couple of years at a term that would work for both sides.  After signing the contract, Del Zotto noted, “It just seemed like two [years] was perfect for both sides. Both sides really wanted it.”

It makes sense. It brings MDZ to unrestricted free agency as a 27 year old with eight years of experience. It also gives the Flyers a young, puck moving offensive defenseman for the next two season while giving the team’s defensive prospects time to develop and make the team.

Ivan Provorov, the team’s first round pick (#7) in 2015, and Travis Sanheim, the team’s first round pick in 2014 (#17) are knocking down the door. Some experts feel that Shayne Gostisbehere might get a mid season call up if he makes strides with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this year, his first season back after an ACL tear that cut short his first pro season.

Meanwhile, the Flyers are hoping that Streit (9 goals, 43 assists, -8) can be the team’s other puck-moving defenseman, with two outcomes: 1) If the Flyers make the playoffs, he adds a strong point presence on the power play and can aid in extending a series; 2) If the Flyers are on the bubble or miss the playoffs, Streit would make an attractive piece, as his contract runs through 2016-17.

The Flyers’ other trade piece, D Luke Schenn, is a target to be moved this season, with an expiring contact that has a $3.6 million cap hit in 2015-16.

Bottom line: Del Zotto’s contract provides the team with a solid offensive defenseman to bridge the current crop of defensemen to the team’s considerable future.

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