As the holiday roster freeze lifts hours after the completion of Friday night’s match here against the Capitals, the most immediate pertinent question concerning the Rangers is how much longer Michael Del Zotto will wear the Blueshirt?

Management has all but settled on dealing the erratic 23-year-old defenseman, who will play in his ninth straight game on Friday since sitting out the Dec. 7 match against the Devils in which Marc Staal was concussed.

General manager Glen Sather has been seeking for a top-four defenseman (and preferably a right-handed shot) as the return for Del Zotto, but that doesn’t appear to be realistic given his ongoing struggles.

It will be up to Sather and his staff to determine whether the club is best served by taking the best available offer — Toronto and Ottawa have had interest, and Colorado is believed intrigued, with the Maple Leafs perhaps willing to part with risk/reward defenseman Jake Gardiner, who had an adventurous night at the Garden on Monday — or whether to continue to hold out for more, even when doing so might yield diminishing returns.

Staal, who skated on his own Thursday after a two-day break following three straight days on the ice, continues to make strides in his recovery and could conceivably play before the end of the five-game road trip that continues in Tampa on Sunday and at Florida on Tuesday prior to concluding with a back-to-back in Pittsburgh and Toronto next Friday and Saturday.

Staal’s return might be enough to bump Del Zotto into the press box, from where his value on the market will not increase. Del Zotto moved up to the second pair during Sunday’s victory over Minnesota, but was back on the third pair against Toronto, skating with Justin Falk while John Moore reclaimed his spot with Anton Stralman on the second tandem.