For the first time in years, the New York Rangers are facing a holdout from a key player. It’s a complicated situation for both sides.
When the New York Rangers training camp opened on Thursday, Tony DeAngelo was missing. The restricted free agent is officially a holdout, unsigned and unable to take part in any team activities. Holdouts can be ugly and have long term ramifications in the relationship between the player and the team. Here are some of the issues.
The team’s perspective
For the Rangers it is relatively simple. They own DeAngelo’s rights and he has no leverage, They qualified him with an offer of the NHL minimum of $874,125. The word is that they want him to sign for the same amount that his fellow RFA, Brendan Lemiuex, signed for on Wednesday. That figure of $925k represents a pay raise over what he made last season, but it isn’t a lot of money.
The bottom line is that the team doesn’t have the cap space to extend DeAngelo on any kind of bridge deal. With a little over a million dollars in cap space, that is realistically all that they can offer him.
The team is well aware of the progress DeAngelo made last season under coach David Quinn. They also know that he is being penciled in for a key role on the defense this season. They also know that if he signs a one year deal he will be a RFA next summer, but with arbitration rights and that could come back to burn them.
Getting DeAngelo signed and into training camp will help the team make its many roster decisions. They still need to figure out if Adam Fox is ready for the big time or if he needs seasoning in Hartford. They have to decide if they are going to keep Brendan Smith on the major league roster or bury his contract in the AHL to save cap space. The need to decide if Libor Hajek is ready for a top six role or do they need to sign a veteran like Joe Morrow to provide depth and security. DeAngelo’s holdout will affect all of those decisions.
The 23-year old is coming off his best season. His 26 assists and 30 points were career highs and he finally started living up to the potential that made him a first round draft pick. He led all Ranger defensemen in scoring and was third on the team in assists. Furthermore, DeAngelo demonstrated that he is one of the best offensive blueliners on the team with zone entry stats comparable to those of Jacob Trouba.
There is no denying that DeAngelo has his issues on the defensive side, but as an offensive tool, he is one of the best on the team.
By the end of the season, DeAngelo was the top right handed shooting defenseman on the Rangers and was quarterbacking the first power play unit. His numbers were better than Kevin Shattenkirk‘s and comparable to Neal Pionk‘s.
Pionk just signed a two-year $6 million deal with Winnipeg and Shattenkirk will be earning $1.75 million with Tampa while still getting paid by the Rangers. While Shattenkirk is an established NHL veteran, Pionk has played fewer NHL games and his average points per game (0.40) is virtually the same as DeAngelo’s (0.39). Not only that, but DeAngelo was a plus six last season compared to Pionk at minus 16.
After last season, DeAngelo has to believe that he is worth more money to the Rangers and even more important, an investment in the future. He has matured and is ready to take on a role as leader on the defense along with newly acquired Jacob Trouba. DeAngelo is a sure thing compared to prospect Adam Fox and while he may not have seen the qualifying offer as an insult, it certainly wasn’t fair value.
DeAngelo also knows that the Rangers are thin on righthanded shooting defensemen. After Trouba and DeAngelo, they have Adam Fox, Joey Keane and Darren Raddysh with a grand total of zero NHL games on their resumes. If DeAngelo isn’t on the team, the only option is Brendan Smith on the right side.