Hartnett: Rangers' Tony DeAngelo Continuing To Exceed Expectations


Back in the summer of 2017, a big question facing the Rangers was whether they received enough of a return when they traded Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes in a salary cap saving move.

In return, the Rangers netted Tony DeAngelo and the seventh overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft – which became Lias Andersson. Stepan was a productive and consistent center. Raanta performed admirably as Henrik Lundqvist’s understudy.

At the time, the trade wasn’t hailed as a slam dunk for the Blueshirts. Some saw the trade as a risk because of the off-ice questions that surrounded DeAngelo, who had been traded by two organizations before his 22nd birthday.

Though Jeff Gorton and the Rangers swung the deal because of DeAngelo’s significant potential, I don’t think anyone could have predicted in 2017 that he would eventually turn into the league’s sixth-most productive defenseman (0.84 points per game).

DeAngelo’s career has blossomed after an initial adjustment period in year one with the Rangers. During the 2017-18 season, he split time between Madison Square Garden and minor-league Hartford. His zero goal and eight assists in 32 NHL games added further questions about his NHL future. The majority of his points had come on the power play. The new question was whether DeAngelo could develop into an effective 5-on-5 player and mature into a reliable presence in the defensive end.

Brady Skjei and Tony DeAngeloPhoto by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The 5-foot-11 defenseman answered all the questions surrounding him emphatically in his second season as a Ranger. A 30-point return in 61 games was clear evidence that his stock was on the rise. He shed the “power play specialist” tag, becoming a possession driver whenever he stepped onto the ice – while improving his defensive zone play. By all accounts, he was a well-liked teammate.

All the signs were apparent that DeAngelo could take large strides forward in 2019-20. Yet, the 24-year-old has gone and surpassed anyone’s expectations halfway into his third season in New York.

Through 43 games, DeAngelo has registered 36 points (11 goals, 25 assists). He is the first Ranger defenseman to record at least 36 points through 43 games since franchise legend Brian Leetch in 2000-01. If DeAngelo continues on his current pace, he would finish the current campaign with 69 points.

His five-point outburst (three goals, two assists) in a 6-3 home win over the rival Devils on Thursday has been the exclamation point of an All-Star level season. He won’t be going to St. Louis on Jan. 25 – but anyone who has watched the Rangers closely could point to his performances and numbers as deserving of that kind of nod.

So, it will be interesting to see how DeAngelo finishes the regular season’s 39 remaining games. Alongside the superlative Artemi Panarin, excelling two-way center Mika Zibanejad and 41-point man Ryan Strome, DeAngelo has been a key reason why the Rangers are one of the league’s most exciting teams to watch.

DeAngelo will earn a sizable raise after signing a one-year, $925,000 contract in September. He is a restricted free agent in the summer and it’s possible that his next salary pushes above $5 million, but that’s another topic for another day. For now, DeAngelo is giving the Rangers and their fans plenty of reason to be excited about his on-ice play and skyrocketing development.

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