Tony D Needs to Stay
There were a lot of players on this young Rangers squad that made huge leaps this season, which we’ve talked about in previous articles. However, in my opinion, out of all of those players that grew (Fox, Lindgren, Strome, etc.) none have made a bigger jump than Tony DeAngelo. The right-shot defenseman had a career year posting 15 goals and 38 assists for 53 points, which ranked fourth among blueliners. Tony D was also a +12 in 68 games played in the regular season and put up 19 of his 53 points on the power play. DeAngelo ranked third among defensemen in shooting percentage with a 10.1% clip on 149 shots. After holding out for a contract through part of preseason, the Sewell, NJ native is due for another contract this offseason and he should see a significant pay raise. A lot of people are coming up with trades involving DeAngelo because they think he’ll either ask for too much money or won’t fit under the salary cap. And then there's also people that rip him apart for his political views but I think that's asinine because he's a hockey player, not a politician, and he should only be criticized for his on-ice play if anything. I believe trading him would be a costly mistake and here’s why.
The Rangers have lacked a true offensive defenseman for a very long time; the last time the Rangers had a d-man with 50 points was in 2001-02 when Brian Leetch had 55 points. Ever wonder why the Rangers struggled so mightily on the power play under John Tortorella and sometimes under Alain Vigneault? It's because they were missing that quarterback on the blueline. I remember the only player that could get the puck in the offensive zone consistently on the power play by himself was Keith Yandle. And he was the closest they came to a 50 point defenseman when he had 47 points in 2015-16, but the Rangers decided to move on from him during the offseason. In fact, New York has a history of giving up on right-handed, puck-moving defensemen. In the 1990s they traded Sergei Zubov to the Penguins after he helped the team win the Stanley Cup in 1994. Zubov posted 156 points in 165 games for the Blueshirts, which is outstanding for a defenseman. He ended up becoming a Hall of Famer so obviously the Rangers made a huge mistake by trading him early in his career. Yandle, similarly, has had some fantastic seasons with the Panthers since he was traded there, even as he’s gotten older. He was always known as a point-producing defenseman during his tenure with the Coyotes, as he had five 40+ point seasons, but his best season came last year at age 32 where he had 62 points. I think it was harder for the Rangers to keep Yandle than Zubov because of the salary cap crunch they had heading into the 2016 offseason, but that’s kind of the position the Rangers are in now.
The Rangers can’t give DeAngelo a one or two year bridge deal because there’s risk of him being chosen during the Expansion Draft next offseason. Also, if they trade him now and the return consists of draft picks and/or prospects, there’s no guarantee that those future assets will develop and become part of the team. I would not feel comfortable giving up a guy like DeAngelo at this point in his career after just seeing what he did this season. In other words, what I’m getting back has to be just as good if not better than Tony D. Also, DeAngelo has such a huge locker room presence and is very supportive of every single one of his teammates so getting rid of him would bring down the morale. The only other option is to sign him. Here’s a list of players that signed contracts coming out of their entry level deals (RFA contracts).
The overall best contract on that list is probably Brayden Point’s 3 year deal. But in terms of defensemen, Zach Werenski’s contract is the most team-friendly and it would make sense to offer DeAngelo a similar contract. I think DeAngelo is a better player so I would say $5.5-$5.75M per season at the same length. I think Chabot money is way too much for Tony D, especially because we have Jacob Trouba signed long term at $8M per season. DeAngelo is 24 now so a 3 year contract would take him to his age 27 where he would become an unrestricted free agent. By then he should be a proven player and an even better one than he is now, and that’s when he should cash in and earn his real payday.
For years the Rangers lacked a quarterback for the power play and after seeing what DeAngelo could do this season, I think they finally found one. I just hope the front office realizes what they have and don't give up on him too early like they did on Yandle or Zubov. My final point is this: if the Rangers have refused to give up on Marc Staal and Brendan Smith, then they should refuse to give up on Tony DeAngelo.