New York Rangers: Trade Tony DeAngelo? Not so fast

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Tony DeAngelo #77 of the New York Ranger(Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

Larry Brooks explained why DeAngelo is a goner from the New York Rangers in his latest column

Larry Brooks loves to stir the pot and he did in his latest column in the New York Post on the future of Tony DeAngelo.  In the column, he explained that the New York Rangers have to trade Tony DeAngelo because if they don’t, they will lost prized prospect Nils Lundkvist.   The rationale is that if they sign DeAngelo to a long-term deal ,  there will be no reason for Lundkvist to sign his Entry Level Contract (ELC) and will play in Sweden until he can become an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) on June 1, 2022.

While the theory makes some sense, there are a few variables to take into consideration.  First, the Rangers are under no obligation to sign DeAngelo to a long-term contract.   He will remain an arbitration eligible Restricted Free Agent (RFA) until the end of the 2022-23 season.

The Blueshirts could just sign him to a one -year deal and he could play next season in the same role as the recently completed campaign.  Considering that there are no righthanded defensemen in the organization with any NHL experience, they are also not in a position to give up on DeAngelo so quickly.

The Blueshirts could easily maintain the roster status quo and not be forced to trade him now. The earliest we could see Lundkvist in North America would be after the conclusion of the SHL season that is about to begin.  In that case he could sign his ELC  and come to play either in Hartford or New York sometime in spring 2021.

If the Swede can improve on what was a fantastic SHL season it will give the Rangers the knowledge they need to to make a decision about DeAngelo by the next trade deadline.   It may be easier to trade DeAngelo at the deadline when playoff contenders are looking for help and the cap hit won’t be as severe.

Whether Lundkvist will be willing to play in Sweden for two full years in order to get to free agency is questionable.  If he finishes his season in Sweden and the Rangers offer him a contract and a chance to burn a year of eligibility by finishing the season in the AHL or NHL, that could be attractive.  It would get him one year closer to a big payday in North America.   The simple fact is that the best players in Sweden want to come to the NHL.   There is not a great track record of Swedish players doing what Brooks is suggesting.

The irony is if the Rangers do decided to promote Lundkvist and deal DeAngelo, the young Swede will still be in a situation where he is third man on the right side defense totem pole, behind Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox. He will just be making the kind of money you want to pay a third pair defenseman, not the kind of dollars DeAngelo will be looking for.

And money is the real reason that the Rangers may decide to trade DeAngelo this off-season.  As they work out their cap issues, despite the odds that they will buy out Henrik Lundqvist, they will still be close to the cap ceiling.

It’s likely that DeAngelo will be looking for longer term and about $5.5-6 million.  As Brooks says, that too much for a third pair defenseman.  What it means is that it’s a pretty good bet that they won’t be able to agree on a deal and he will end up going to arbitration. That could be very expensive for the Blueshirts.

It’s an interesting predicament for DeAngelo.  If he goes to arbitration and gets a one year deal in the neighborhood of $5-6 million (the going rate), the Rangers will be hard pressed to pay him and though there aren’t a lot of team in the NHL willing to assume that kind of salary they will have to deal him. If he signs for one year at a hometown discount, it greatly increases the odds that he will be trade bait at the deadline.  Don’t forget, DeAngelo held out and reported to training camp late this season when he had absolutely no leverage and had to accept the Rangers offer of $925k.

One other challenge for the Rangers if they want to trade DeAngelo now is his status as an RFA with arbitration rights.  Any NHL team looking to make a deal would make it contingent on their ability to sign DeAngelo for the kind of salary they are willing to pay.

In a perfect world, he signs one year for a hometown discount and that gives him one more year to prove that he deserves the big bucks and longer term.  It will also give the Rangers a year to see how good Nils Lundkvist really is.  Then, the Rangers can sign or trade either DeAngelo or Lundkvist.

This is a problem the Rangers made for themselves when they signed Trouba to a seven year, $56 million contract.  They locked themselves into the Michigan native through 2026.   Adam Fox then took the Rangers’ brain trust by surprise with his fabulous debut.  Between Trouba and Fox, the Rangers will be set on the right side for the next six years, leaving both DeAngelo and Lundkvist as third pair defensemen.

So, will NHL clubs be knocking down the door to get at Tony DeAngelo?  Probably not.   While there are clubs that can use righthanded help on defense, the flat cap is handcuffing most teams, especially with the uncertainties of arbitration.  According to capfriendly.com, 25 of the 31 NHL teams have less than $17 million in cap space with 14 teams with less than $10 million. It’s not an easy scenario for any NHL general manager.

Unless someone makes Gorton an offer that he cannot turn down, he won’t be trading DeAngelo anytime soon. In his column Brooks notes that the deal would have to be  for “a center who is either on his entry-level deal or early on a controllable second deal. That’s a fine needle to thread.”  He’s right.  That’s a tough criteria to meet especially when the only teams you can deal with are clubs that have cap space and the kind of player that the Rangers are looking for.

Signing DeAngelo to a one year deal makes the most sense.  It buys time for the team to map out a strategy for their current players and their top prospects.  With the deadline for arbitration election less than a month away,  Jeff Gorton doesn’t have a lot of time to get this done.