Part 4 of a series analyzing the New York Rangers.
When you have a 24-year-old defender, and a real, no less, who registers the fourth most goals and points in the NHL at his position and comes up with a limited free agency, it’s a no-brainer to lock him up in at least five years, right?
Or, in the case of a Tony DeAngelo, is it?
This is probably the most daunting issue the Rangers leadership will face this season when evaluating whether it can afford to sign No. 77 for what would probably be at least $ 6 million a year on a long-term deal.
Of course, there are alternatives. The parties can negotiate a short-term agreement for two years for a number that would probably come in at about $ 5 million per. If this fails, the management may allow DeAngelo to become the first Ranger since Nikolay Zherdev 2009 to arbitrate, but it is not an option favored by anyone.
Or, of course, the Blueshirts could switch DeAngelo from a position of strength on the right side of the blue line to get a legit top-nine forward with top-six upside that would fill a weak position.
DeAngelo is a special offensive talent, how he skates, how he sees the ice, how he is a wrestler carrying the puck in the rush, how he distributes it in the offensive zone and how he joins the rush and goes to the net, that way he handles the point of what has become a devastating power play when the season was put on hold.
The defensive side of it, well, not really that much. DeAngelo has his moments, he plays with bites, he doesn’t fight back, he supports his teammates and of course he can roll the puck out of danger in an instant, but there are more than a few too many times when he seems to pick his places and choose their battles. It is obvious that Rangers need more than a little more care from him in front of the net and in the corner of the D zone.
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If Rangers are going to sign DeAngelo in the long run, they must clearly be convinced that this controversial season will be the norm and not the exception. There were no benches or healthy scratches due to immature behavior, as it had been on several occasions during 2018-19. In fact, it was just as DeAngelo promised the day he signed up to camp after he reached a one-year contract.
DeAngelo is popular in the room, a guy with great personality. His views, which he likes to share on social media, are not for everyone, probably not for most New Yorkers, but they are off the ice and have had no impact on his relationship with his teammates or on his games. Rangers will not forgo a rare talent because of Twitter.
Here are the defenders who scored at least as many goals (15) and points (53) as DeAngelo: John Carlson and Roman Josi.
Washington’s Carlson and Nashville’s Josi will almost certainly finish 1-2 in any order in the Norris Trophy poll. (By the way, Tony, if this is stated in your assignment, I will expect my share of the revenue.)
The management’s decision will be about DeAngelo, but not just DeAngelo. Because it will be a cap crunch. Because Rangers have Jacob Trouba, who will enter the second season of a seven-year deal worth $ 8 million per, on the right. Since Rangers have 21-year-old Adam Fox, perhaps not as dynamic, but more effective as a two-way defender, on the right. Because Rangers have 19-year-old Nils Lundkvist on his way from Sweden.
Trouba, whose no-move clause will begin July 1 (or on any corresponding date set if the calendar period requires a realignment) and Fox will play. And when Fox comes from its starting level, he will get big money. Can Rangers afford between $ 5 and $ 6 million in the long run to have DeAngelo on the third pair?
It probably won’t work for anyone. But what if Rangers move DeAngelo to his left-side off-side, where he has been able to play at various stages of his career? The Blueshirts ended this year with Ryan Lindgren, Marc Staal and Brendan Smith as their three lefties.
I know. Libor Hajek is a left and so is Yegor Rykov. K’Andre Miller plays the left side and so do Tarmo Reunanen, Zac Jones and Matthew Robertson. But they are prospects. DeAngelo is an established NHL player. Yes he is. He noted this this year. Moving him to that side would fill a need.
Imagine how poetic it would be to find DeAngelo to the left of something.