The New York Rangers currently find themselves sitting in the sixth spot in the highly competitive Metropolitan Division and five points back from the second wild-card position. Even with the itch to return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2016-17 season, one major issue continues to loom over the team’s playoff hopes: the defensive effort. The Rangers are in the bottom-half of the standings for plenty of defensive statistics, including shots allowed per game, goals allowed per game and penalty killing.
Defenseman Tony DeAngelo has been one of the bright spots on the roster, but can general manager Jeff Gorton afford to lock him up to a long-term contract? If the Rangers begin to fall further out of the playoff picture, there are multiple reasons why DeAngelo should be considered to be on the way out of New York.
DeAngelo is becoming one of the best offensive defensemen for the Rangers in recent memory. The former 2014 first-round selection has tallied 23 points in 33 games played, which is good enough for the most out of Rangers’ defenseman, as well as tied for third-most points on the team. Scoring an output of 7 goals and 16 assists puts him in the top-15 in NHL points for defenseman. Not too shabby for the 24-year-old restricted free agent, who is playing on a one-year deal that was signed last summer.
Without a doubt, DeAngelo will garner interest at the February 2020 trade deadline, especially if he continues his dazzling start to the 2019-20 campaign for the Blueshirts. At the trade deadline last season, the Buffalo Sabres acquired defenseman Brandon Montour from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for prospect Brendan Guhle and a 2019 first-round pick.
Montour only totaled 25 points in 62 games for the Ducks in 2018-19 before being dealt. DeAngelo, who is currently on pace for 57 points, could be an enticing trade chip for Gorton at the deadline and could help the Rangers get a large return.
Can the Rangers Afford DeAngelo?
The Rangers luckily signed DeAngelo to a team-friendly, one-year deal worth $925,000 in the summer of 2019. On pace for 57 points for the 2019-20 season will see him calling for a major pay increase on his next contract and he’ll most likely be looking for a lengthy term as well. With his production at a career high, he could be asking for a new deal that is above $4 million in average annual value.
For the Rangers and Gorton, this will be one of the team’s biggest issues near the deadline, and in the offseason if it gets to that point. The Blueshirts are already in a tight spot with the salary cap, especially considering that the Rangers will have about $7.5 million in dead space against the cap in 2020-21, paying buyout penalties for Kevin Shattenkirk ($6 million), Dan Girardi ($1.1 million) and salary retention on Ryan Spooner ($300,000). The Rangers will also have Chris Kreider to re-sign after the current season, assuming he isn’t dealt at the deadline. With all of these factors in play, can the Rangers really afford to sign DeAngelo to a long-term deal?
The Future Is Coming
The Rangers have one of the most talented prospect pipelines in respect to the defense. The likes of Joey Keane, K’Andre Miller and Nils Lundkvist are all performing beautifully in their current roles away from the NHL level and they are all widely considered as the defensive future of the Blueshirts. With plenty of skill coming up for the Rangers in the next few years, DeAngelo starts to look more and more expendable despite his current performance for the mid-tier talented Rangers.
Keane is playing with the Rangers’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, and has 21 points thus far, which is good enough for third-most among defensemen in the AHL this season. Miller had 22 points in 26 games and made the Big Ten’s all-rookie team playing for Wisconsin in 2018-19. Lastly, Lundkvist has grown into his game and has put up 17 points in 24 games so far this season playing in Sweden. With plenty of skill coming up for the Rangers in the next few years, DeAngelo starts to look more and more expendable despite his current performance for the mid-tier talented Rangers.
What’s next for DeAngelo and the Rangers? Gorton will have to decide whether to retain his prospering defenseman or to look towards the future and sell off DeAngelo before the 2020 deadline, while his trade value is at its peak.