Rangers Must Do Everything to Keep Tony DeAngelo

The new season is fast approaching, but there are still a handful of free agency conundrums that have yet to be resolved. One of these includes the New York Rangers inability to agree to a new contract with young right-handed defenseman Tony DeAngelo.

While this may not be the most high-profile free agency dispute in the league, it may have a significant effect on the Rangers come next season. Given the team’s current depth, they could end up in a very difficult situation without him.

Caught Right-Handed

Heading into the middle of the summer, the belief was that the Rangers can make Kevin Shattenkirk expendable because they’ll have DeAngelo, as well as newly acquired Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox, on the right side of the defense.

There was nothing incorrect with that thought process, but the assumption that DeAngelo will remain a Ranger was likely a contributing factor in Rangers management’s decision to buy out Shattenkirk.

Well, now it is time to get a deal done. The Rangers are obviously confident that they can retain DeAngelo, but confidence doesn’t put pen to paper. The Rangers will have a gaping hole if they are unable to re-sign him.

Tony DeAngelo, Jaroslav Halak
New York Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo scores on Boston Bruins goaltender Jaroslav Halak (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

With Shattenkirk gone, losing DeAngelo would leave the Rangers with only two right-handed defensemen. Neal Pionk would’ve fit if he was still a with the team, but he was part of the package that brought over Trouba.

So, clearly the Rangers must be getting a sense of desperation. Not just because the days continue to draw on with no contract, but because they have two players in this situation. Brendan Lemieux also has yet to sign a new deal with New York.

Aggressive Forward or Skilled Defenseman?

The sad truth of the matter is that there’s a high chance the Rangers will not be able to sign both. Neither of them seem willing to sign for a small contract, but there is no room in the Rangers salary cap to sign much larger deals. Basically, I see it as DeAngelo vs. Lemieux.

Of course, keeping both is the most ideal situation. But with the current stalemate, my vote is for DeAngelo. New York greatly enjoyed the presence Lemieux brought to the Rangers lineup, but there are plenty of physical bottom-six forwards in the league. There are not plenty of skilled, young, right-handed defensemen.

Last season, DeAngelo played in 61 games, recording 4 goals and 26 assists for 30 total points. He scored 10 of those points on the man advantage.

Brendan Lemieux Winnipeg Jets
Rangers forward Brendan Lemieux, formerly of the Winnipeg Jets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

DeAngelo has proven his ability to skate up ice, avoid opponents, and create space using his excellent footwork and stick handling. While he is not known for his defensive skills, he improved in that area tremendously last season. In addition, he ended up with a plus-six rating once the season had concluded.

Lemieux is a hard-hitting, pace-setting forward with high intensity. He knows how to incite and ignite. But to me that just isn’t enough to warrant letting a player as promising as DeAngelo walk.

It would behoove the Rangers to make another move if possible, such as a trade, in order to make room for both of these players. Unfortunately, it isn’t quite that easy.

If the Rangers are left to make this difficult decision, they should keep the young defenseman. And then, when high-end prospect Nils Lundkvist arrives for his tenure in New York, DeAngelo can be traded. A talented, young, right-handed defenseman in his early to mid-20’s will garner some hefty interest.

Regardless of the decision that is made, the Rangers are in a good spot. They are stacked with fresh and promising players. But keeping both DeAngelo and Lemieux, it would retain a lot of this team’s high-impact aggression.