The New York Rangers acquired Anthony DeAngelo on Friday, a move that just doesn’t add up.
When the New York Rangers announced on Friday that they acquired Anthony DeAngelo and the seventh pick in the NHL Draft for Antti Raanta and Derek Stepan, my immediate thought was “Anthony DeAngelo? Really?”
Not because of Stepan, Raanta, or the seventh pick. Not because Anthony DeAngelo lacks talent. But because of Anthony DeAngelo’s specific skill-set.
I have a theory that the Rangers made the Derek Stepan trade for different reasons than a team should make a trade for. Let’s look closer.
The New York Rangers determined they needed to trade Derek Stepan before his no-movement clause kicked in. All signs point to a lack of interest across the NHL, except for from the Arizona Coyotes. John Chayka, the Coyotes GM, bugged Jeff Gorton about Stepan for over a year. He wanted Stepan badly, and Arizona was the only fit.
Gorton didn’t like any of the centers Arizona had to offer. He determined his best course of action would be to acquire a young defenseman, a player the Rangers had long been searching for. Arizona definitively shot down Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Jakob Chychrun, as they should have.
That left Jeff Gorton with Anthony DeAngelo as the best young defenseman available. Gorton wanted to move Derek Stepan, wanted the seventh pick, and liked DeAngelo enough to pull the trigger. He essentially forced himself into a deal for the sake of making the deal.
Not the worst thus far, no? Well, here’s the issue. Gorton did not take the time to consider who the Head Coach of his hockey team is.
Alain Vigneault Will Not Play Anthony DeAngelo
So, the Rangers got Anthony DeAngelo, a promising young offensive defenseman. Let’s see what young talent expert Corey Pronman had to say about him:
"DeAngelo is a defenseman with all-world talent. He’s a top level skater or puck handler who can make unique offensive plays. Much is made of DeAngelo’s character/attitude, for a player traded twice in two years, but the real reason he hasn’t elevated his game is that he’s a defenseman who doesn’t really defend all that well. That is the risk you get with the fantastic upside."
Next, Pronman tweeted:
"I’d be interested in seeing a team try DeAngelo at forward. Kid has talent to score. Defense part has never come. Try to rebuild him."
In a world where New York’s head coach is a progressive mind who allows young talent to nurture in the NHL, there’s no problem with any of this. If DeAngelo struggles, he receives time to figure out how to improve. If DeAngelo makes poor defensive reads, he’s coached into making better ones.
That is not the world we live in. We have seen what Alain Vigneault did to the likes of Adam Clendening, Michael Del Zotto, and Keith Yandle. Vigneault wants a defense-first style of defense, despite his system begging for puck-movement and some offense-first thinking.
Additionally, Alain Vigneault regularly benches young talent in favor of veterans. Look no further than the unproven Pavel Buchnevich sitting in playoff games for Tanner Glass. Anthony DeAngelo does not fit into the mold of what Alain Vigneault looks for in a defenseman, nor is he established enough to enter the Alain Vigneault Circle of Trust.™
Anthony DeAngelo Doesn’t Fit
At the time of this article’s publication, the New York Rangers’ defense looks like this:
Brady Skjei-Anthony DeAngelo
Marc Staal-Nick Holden
Alexei Bereglazov-Neal Pionk
The Rangers recently removed Assistant Coach Jeff Beukeboom in favor of old time coach Lindy Ruff, another move pointing them in the direction of playing the veterans. New York possesses plenty of cap space, making it likely for them to re-sign Brendan Smith and/or sign Kevin Shattenkirk.
That defense could end up looking like this:
Ryan McDonagh-Kevin Shattenkirk
Brady Skjei-Brendan Smith
Marc Staal-Nick Holden
Alexei Bereglazov, Anthony DeAngelo, Neal Pionk
So, something doesn’t add up. Either the Rangers will pass on one of Shattenkirk or Smith, a foolish option, or they will trade at least one of Nick Holden or Marc Staal, a far superior option. However, if they do that they will still scratch at least two defensemen every night that should be playing. This doesn’t even include Ryan Graves, either.
The Rangers will either foolishly sit out of free agency, go back on promises to two young defensemen, or scratch a vital piece in a blockbuster trade. It doesn’t add up.
Each subsection here points me to the same conclusion. Jeff Gorton wanted Derek Stepan gone, saw Arizona as the only fit in a trade, and took the best deal he could manage.
In a vacuum the idea makes sense, but when Alain Vigneault is your Head Coach and you have a glaring need for reliable defensemen, Anthony DeAngelo wasn’t the player to get for Derek Stepan.
Perhaps New York planned on flipping DeAngelo in a deal that fell through, or Alain Vigneault will go through a miraculous change in approach this upcoming season. There is some hope for Vigneault seeing what the Rangers were lacking last postseason and asking for a defenseman in DeAngelo’s mold.
Regardless, the most likely scenario is Gorton feeling backed into a wall and taking the young defenseman, despite his not fitting into Vigneault’s system. Anthony DeAngelo is a talented young defenseman that should fit for this team, but signs point to his ending up under-utilized, and eventually heading to his fourth organization.
Let’s hope the Rangers prove this theory wrong and trade Holden and Staal, while signing Shattenkirk and Smith.
Can’t I dream?