With the New York Rangers preseason games now underway, defenseman Tony DeAngelo is the lone restricted free agent that has not agreed on a deal with the team. If the two sides don’t come to terms, it’s more than a shame for both parties.
DeAngelo was a notable storyline for the Rangers last season, going from aplayer who left many frustrations, to one who turned his play around after a poor first season in New York, becoming quite the impact player on a defense that has needed work.
Entering this offseason, the Rangers, while dealing with cap issues, needed to decide on what to do with several restricted free agents, including the newly-acquired Jacob Trouba. The likes of Trouba and Brendan Lemieux have stayed on, while Neal Pionk and Fredrik Claesson went off to new homes.
DeAngelo’s On-Ice Performance in 2018-19
While his numbers may not be the most overwhelming, and his team did more losing than winning, DeAngelo made significant strides in his play during 2018-19.
Only eight Rangers players were able to see a plus/minus rating in the positive end, but DeAngelo led the team in the category at plus-six. In addition, he scored 26 assists, which was tied for third on the team (tied for second if players traded mid-season are not counted).
Adding in his goals, DeAngelo joined the likes of current teammate Brady Skjei and former captain Ryan McDonagh as Rangers defensemen who contributed at least 30 points in a season since 1988-89.
Just a season before, he was someone who made little to no positive impact on the ice, scoring no goals, eight assists and a minus-16 rating — the last stat was one of the worst on the team — before demotion to the Hartford Wolf Pack and injury.
DeAngelo certainly wasn’t the neatest in the defensive zone to start the season, but as the season progressed, and especially as the second half of the season arrived, DeAngelo’s game improved. His scoring — especially on the power play — combined with speed, agility, stick work and aggressiveness, resulted in his best NHL play in a season that could have been seen as the last chance.
The biggest case that can be made against DeAngelo is his maturity and discipline issues. On the ice, while he’s performed well on the man-advantage, he certainly needs to learn to avoid the box. His 77 penalty minutes topped the team and were his most since the minors.
Always rearing its head, however, is DeAngelo’s controversial history of attitude problems. He was benched by head coach David Quinn multiple times throughout the season, with the then-first-year head coach showing zero tolerance for any lack of maturity.
What doesn’t help matters is a controversial series of events DeAngelo has had prior to joining the NHL squad full-time. The OHL’s Sarnia Sting suspended him twice during 2013-14 for an altercation with a referee and a teammate. He was suspended in 2016-17 while with the Arizona Coyotes for a transgression against an official. During his time with the Wolf Pack, he got into spats with hockey fans on social media.
Maybe this is part of the price that comes with the package known as DeAngelo, but can they be fixed on or handled? While Quinn scratched the 2014 draft pick more than a handful of times last season, one may say it was also his coaching and call for aggressive play from his team that led DeAngelo to have a career season.
There lies a twist: As the Rangers could use DeAngelo, he needs them as much, if not more. He’s had the opportunity to be a key contributor and to grow as a person. Despite all the benchings and maturity problems, DeAngelo has said he respects Quinn and his upfront honesty; meanwhile, Quinn previously stated he has seen progress from the defenseman. If he wasn’t on this team, would he have the same success, and would he be in an environment that continued to put faith in him?
Rangers Defense Without DeAngelo
DeAngelo’s value to the Rangers may have taken a blow thanks to the team’s acquisition of Trouba during the offseason, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a valuable asset, especially when looking at the rest of the defense.
Brady Skjei, a close friend of Trouba, is expected to be paired with him during the season. Skjei made some improvements, but his run with the Rangers thus far has been disappointing, and this could be make-or-break for him. Marc Staal’s skills have deteriorated and he doesn’t fit in with the Rangers’ youth movement, but he’s probably not going anywhere with his no-movement clause.
There’s a lot of hype around Adam Fox, but he’s still going to be just an NHL rookie. If Libor Hajek makes the NHL roster, it’s going to be his first full NHL season coming off a bad season on a bad Hartford squad. And Brendan Smith’s future is a complete unknown at the moment, especially with the cap issues.
DeAngelo, at the very least, can be an all-around defensive package. He can put up points, he can create space, he can go after the puck, he can get aggressive and gritty. Maybe he’s not the biggest defensive asset, but he’s someone who can play a role coming off a noteworthy season.
The Rangers and DeAngelo don’t appear to be on the same page when it comes to a new deal. But considering how DeAngelo improved last season — combined with his potential, the potential of this season’s Blueshirts team and DeAngelo’s personal growth — it would be disappointing to not see the sides come to terms — even if it’s just a bridge deal.
My name is Tom Albano and I cover the New York Rangers. I covered the team back in the 2015-16 season for a blog called Black and Blueshirts before the site network closed down. In addition, I’m a combat sports (i.e. MMA, boxing, etc) contributor for FIGHT SPORTS and host a weekly sports talk podcast called The Unspoken Podcast.