If asked to rank the remaining unsigned restricted free agent defensemen by offensive efficiency, most would easily be able to tab Zach Werenski and Charlie McAvoy as the top two. However, few would name Anthony DeAngelo third ahead of the likes of Ivan Provorov and Marcus Pettersson. In fact, last season DeAngelo finished just behind Werenski and McAvoy in points per game, with 0.49 compared to their 0.54 and 0.52 respectively. He also did so with three minutes less of ice time on average. DeAngelo has quietly developed into a potent offensive contributor on the blue line and working out an extension will be no small task for the cap-strapped New York Rangers. Here is a closer look at his situation.
DeAngelo, 23, is already on his third NHL team, a fact that may contribute to his perceived lesser value compared to his RFA peers. The 19th overall pick in 2014 by the Tampa Bay Lightning, he never played a game for the Bolts and was surprisingly dealt to the Arizona Coyotes for a 2016 second-round pick following a productive first pro season in the AHL. The ‘Yotes did not hesitate to bring DeAngelo up, and he recorded a respectable 14 points in 39 NHL games in 2016-17. Yet, he was moved again that off-season in the deal that sent Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta from New York to Arizona. DeAngelo’s first season with the Rangers was nothing special; he again split the season between the NHL and AHL and failed to scorer a goal in 32 games with New York. Through three pro seasons, DeAngelo was beginning to look like a bust as a first-round pick.
However, the team handed DeAngelo a regular role last season and he ran with it. The talented puck-mover registered 30 points in 61 games to lead all Blueshirt defensemen in scoring despite missing more than 20 games. DeAngelo also led the entire team with a +6 rating and was second in even strength time on ice. There is no hiding the fact that DeAngelo was one of the best players for New York last season. Despite their considerable additions this off-season, especially on the blue line in Jacob Trouba and prospect Adam Fox, the Rangers will still need to sign DeAngelo to a deal that accurately reflects that value, even if they don’t necessarily have the cap flexibility to do so. After that showing last season, DeAngelo is no longer a mystery or an enigma and if the Rangers won’t pay him, another team will.
2018-19: 61 GP, 4-26-30, +6 rating, 77 PIMS, 111 shots, 19:20 ATOI
Career: 132 GP, 9-43-52, -25 rating, 125 PIMS, 239 shots, 18:00 ATOI
Neal Pionk, Winnipeg Jets
Platform Year Stats: 73 GP, 6-20-26, -16 rating, 25 PIMS, 132 shots, 21:10 ATOI
Career Stats: 101 GP, 7-33-40, -17, 47 PIMS, 186 shots, 21:30 ATOI
Contract: Two years, $6MM
Year Signed: 2019
There’s isn’t a much better comparable than a player who played on the same team. Last season, Pionk was given more ice time and played in more games than DeAngelo for the Rangers and still was outscored and outplayed. When it came to trading away a young defender in the Trouba deal, it was Pionk that New York was willing to part with and not DeAngelo. With similar platform and career stats, especially on a per-game scoring basis, DeAngelo can point to Pionk as a comparable but also prove his slight edge as well as argue that his younger age and greater experience help his case. Pionk’s deal is the floor for a DeAngelo extension.
Travis Sanheim, Philadelphia Flyers
Platform Year Stats: 82 GP, 9-26-35, -4 rating, 22 PIMS, 121 shots, 19:34 ATOI
Career Stats: 131 GP, 11-34-45, -10 rating, 42 PIMS, 193 shots, 18:04 ATOI
Contract: Two years, $6.5MM
Year Signed: 2019
DeAngelo took a big step forward this season, but Sanheim took a leap. A fellow 2014 first-round pick facing criticism, Sanheim finally showed he was a starting-caliber NHL defenseman with a nine-goal, 35-point campaign. However, those numbers did come in a full 82-game season. Sanheim’s career numbers also trail DeAngelo’s in almost the exact same games played and total ice time. Both young defensemen are part of busy blue lines with a fair amount of talent but have carved out a role for themselves. DeAngelo maintains a slight edge based just on per-game production, but these two players are very similar.
Will Butcher, New Jersey Devils
Platform Year Stats: 78 GP, 4-26-30, -17 rating, 18 PIMS, 108 shots, 19:16 ATOI
Career Stats: 159 GP, 9-65-74, -16, 26 PIMS, 196 shots, 17:38 ATOI
Contract: Three years, $11.2MM
Year Signed: 2019
Like Werenski and McAvoy, few would think to associate DeAngelo with Butcher, the prize college free agent of a few years ago. In reality, DeAngelo and Butcher had the same stat line last season, with the Devils standout playing in 17 more games. In his career, Butcher does have the slightly superior per-game scoring numbers, but it is hard to look at their platform seasons and DeAngelo’s more balanced game at a younger age and not feel they are at least close to equal.
There are several fair comparisons to DeAngelo, all of whom have signed extensions within the last few months. It paints a pretty clear picture of what a defenseman of DeAngelo’s age, experience, and production should be seeking: a short-term deal worth $3-4MM.
The Rangers are tight against the salary cap and have several long-term contracts on the blue line already, as well as a handful of prospect defenders who could push for a role sooner rather than later. For that reason, the team will likely push for a shorter, more affordable bridge deal, taking the risk that DeAngelo could continue to improve and boost his price tag, but landing a contract that they can accommodate more easily in the short term. If DeAngelo is slightly better than Sanheim, who makes $3.25MM on a two-year deal, and slightly worse than Butcher, who makes $3.73MM on a three-year deal, a two-year deal with a $3.5MM AAV is likely just right for the young Rangers defensemen.
Now, even at a very fair two years and $7MM, a DeAngelo resolution is still too much for the Rangers to carry at current time, with RFA forward Brendan Lemieux still to sign as well. The team has a number of young players they can freely demote as well as multiple veterans that are candidates to be buried in the AHL, but nevertheless the team may still need to make a space-saving trade before the season begins.