Guess who’s back. Tony D. Yes. The Rangers will have their Eminem version back for at least the next two years after avoiding arbitration. I thought bridging him for two years at $4.75 million would get it done. As it turned out, I almost nailed it.
Tony DeAngelo has re-signed with the Rangers for two years and an average cap hit of $4.8 million per season. That’s a perfect number for the offensive defenseman who posted career bests in goals (15), assists (38), points (53), plus/minus (12) and games played (68).
The soon to be 25-year old Sewell, New Jersey native also achieved personal highs in even strength goals where he notched 12 of his 15 with the other three coming on the power play. A number one quarterback who has great vision and an accurate shot, DeAngelo had a good split by recording 34 even strength points (12-22-34) and 19 power play points (3-16-19).
He also was a fixture in overtime where the playmaking defenseman excelled at the three-on-three by combining his superb skating with his ability to be both a passing and shooting threat. That was on display at MSG when he was directly involved in Mika Zibanejad scoring his franchise tying fifth goal of a game in a wild 6-5 overtime win over the Capitals. The best regular season game you’ll ever see.
DeAngelo works well with both Zibanejad and leading scorer Artemi Panarin. So, there’s even more reason to be excited about the future with top pick Alexis Lafreniere joining a young talented team that still includes Chris Kreider, Pavel Buchnevich, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko.
The only question is will DeAngelo friend and teammate Ryan Strome be returning. There’s little doubt Brendan Lemieux will be back even if he winds up going to arbitration. He doesn’t have much leverage.
As for Strome, who’s a year away from unrestricted status, he had his best season. The center benefited by playing with Panarin on the second line where he achieved a career high 59 points (18-41-59) including 41 points at even strength with a plus-21. Unless the Rangers have a different solution, they might be wise to bring him back on a one-year deal for $5 million. Given that he made $3.1 million last season, that’s what it’s looking like.
It’s up to the organization to decide what they want to do. So far, they’ve wisely not overspent on free agents due to their commitment to core players. Instead, they decided to address depth with the additions of center Kevin Rooney and much maligned veteran defenseman Jack Johnson, who is only signed for a year. You’d think these misfits knew more than John Davidson or Jeff Gorton about hockey. They understand where this team is. I’ll trust them over anyone.
What about replacing Jesper Fast? Well, they can’t. He was a responsible two-way forward who was trusted by the coaching staff at five-on-five and penalty kill. A interchangeable player, who was a quiet leader for a group that doesn’t have enough grit. Hopefully, that void can be filled by guys like Lemieux, Brett Howden and Rooney, who is a diligent worker if you watched him with the Devils. There’s room for growth.
It’ll be imperative for kids like Chytil and Kakko to take steps in the right direction next season. There just isn’t enough room to do too much else. The salary cap will remain at $81.5 million, leaving the Blueshirts with slightly over $7 million to work with. That could mean penciling in Strome and Lemieux.
Maybe if they’re lucky, they can afford to give a proven veteran like Michael Grabner a pro tryout. He was bought out by the Coyotes. The speed and two-way capability of the ex-Ranger would be a good fit on the fourth line. He’s a strong penalty killer who’s totaled 11 shorthanded goals over his 10-year career. Grabner is 33 and could still be serviceable for a team.
I’m pleased with both Davidson and Gorton on getting both DeAngelo and Alex Georgiev done. They’re not screwing around. Only two players left to address.
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