There’s a lot of words that can describe Tony DeAngelo, gifted, outspoken and passionate amongst them. In the relatively vanilla world of hockey, where players are coached on how to talk to reporters, and avoid saying almost anything, the 25 year old New Jersey native stands out.
Whether it be his much talked about support of Donald Trump, and his self-imposed banishment from Twitter in solidarity with his idol, or the impressive 53 points in 68 games last season, that ranked him fourth in the NHL, there’s much to talk about.
The young defenseman first made headlines in 2014 whilst playing for the Sarnia Sting of the OHL. He was held out for 8 games following a suspension for violating the league’s harassment, abuse and diversity policy. Per Trevor Letowski, his coach at the time, the incident revolved around a “heat of the moment” exchange that saw the slur used against his team mate, prompting Letowski to immediately suspend him, followed by the league’s ruling shortly after. Later that season he was suspended 2 games for abusing an official, and then got tossed in his first game back for the same offense, leaving an already shorthanded defense corps with just three blueliners to finish out the final 14:41 of regulation.
Later that season he was drafted 19th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning, and had the following to say to his home state NJ,com:
“It’s in the past and it’s been in the past for a while,” DeAngelo said. “Still I tried to explain myself and be honest because teams have to do their homework. I am not going to say it was not a big deal because it was a big deal.
“It was a mistake, I have learned from it and I am ready to change and bring a high character hockey player and guy to the organization.”
It’s unclear at this point how his tenure with the Lightning panned out, but after playing out the 2015-16 season with the Syracuse Cruch of the AHL – Tampa’s farm team – he was sent to Arizona as part of a draft day deal that sent the Coyote’s second round draft pick of that year to the Lightning. Interesting trivia, that draft pick was used to select Libor Hajek, who would later be traded to the Rangers.
In two seasons, DeAngelo went from being a first round pick, to being traded for a draft pick in the second round. It clearly wasn’t a case of the Lightning trying to upgrade their team, but appeared more of a case of something about DeAngelo or his game, that did not fit in with the organization’s future.
During that season with the Coyotes, the then 21 year old made his NHL debut, appearing in 39 games and recording 5 goals and 9 assists in 39 games, while also recording a -13 plus/minus and 37 penalty minutes. He also earned himself a suspension for pushing a referee, with the league handing him a 3 game suspension on January 1st.
The following June, DeAngelo was again traded on draft day, this time to the New York Rangers in exchange for Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta. He came to New York with some rumored attitude issues, and a lot to prove.
His first year saw him record 8 assists in 32 games, along with an eye-watering -18, though to be fair, part of the reason he had the opportunity was that the Rangers had announced a commitment to rebuilding and fielded a largely unrecognizable team throgh much of the last two months of the season.
In 2018-19 things started to trend more positively, and DeAngelo recorded a solid 30 points in 61 games, along with a career high 77 penalty minutes. He paired with veteran Marc Staal to form a fairly reliable third pairing, and would continue that into last season, where he put up career highs in goals, assists, points, plus/minus and shots. His 53 points in 68 games placed him in the upper echelon of offensive bluelines, in no small part to the offensive coming from the top two Rangers lines.
Since play was suspended in March due to COVID, things have not exactly panned out for DeAngelo. His peformance in the play-in round, was one of several underperformers, recording a solitary assist in the three game sweep, to go along with a -6.
Later in August he made headlines again, for challenging a Rangers fan to a fight outside MSG, forcing the team to step in and defuse the situation.
The team reportedly explored the trade market, but ultimately resolved to signing him to a 2 year $4.8M annual average value contract in October, allowing them to both to avoid what would likely have been a contentious arbitration hearing.
With the ink barely dry, things again came to a head less that two weeks later, when the avid Trump supporter questioned the reality of COVID19 just two days after the Republican candidate lost. Twitter suspended DeAngelo’s account, and the team once again stepped in.
It appeared everyone was again trying to move on as camp opened, with DeAngelo being touted as the potential partner for Jacob Trouba for the shortened season. As it turns out, K’Andre Miller would take that role, and has done nothing but make it his own since the seasons started, relegating DeAngelo back to his third pair role behind Trouba and Adam Fox on the right.
Social media would continue to feature however, with DeAngelo making a very public show of leaving Twitter following the company’s banning of Donald Trump following the January 6th riot at the US Capitol. The New Jersey native posting a final comment to Instagram calling out the other platforms, and vowing to move to Parler should it be able to return after Amazon shut down it’s hosting.
A lot to process for sure, but perhaps a good indication of where DeAngelo’s head was at going into the season opener against the Islanders. It’s fair to say the Rangers just were beaten all over the ice, from the net on out. Already 3-0 down, the defenseman took a holding call just over a minute into the third period, ultimately turning that into a double minor, which certainly dented any chance the team might have had to come back in the game.
The Islanders would not score on the four miinutes of power play time, but did end up winning 4-0, with number 77 sitting on the bench for the remainder of the game.
David Quinn determined that an example had to be set, and determined to make DeAngelo a healthy scratch for the next game, and then for the following one after the team turned in an impressive 5-0 win. Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton made clear today that the defender could not move on from that, and was told that he would get one more chance iwth the team.
As we know now, that chance came following Saturday’s loss when he made a sarcastic remark to netminder Alexandar Georgiev, prompting an altercation between the two. The Rangers would place DeAngelo on waivers the following day, and made it clear, that he has played his last game with the team.
In the immediate aftermath of the event, there have been a number of rumors on the web, including that DeAngelo took Miller’s puck from his career first goal, and that there was bad blood between the two players. President John Davidson sternly refuted those today, and Gorton reiterated this was just one of several instances that lead to this decision.
From the outside, it’s been clear that DeAngelo has had difficulty managing his emotions. As Adam Herman reported a couple of years back, the defenseman is easy to manage when things are going well, but has issues when things aren’t going his way.
He’s had several run-ins with the referees and coaching staff, that have resulted in additional penalties and healthy scratches during his tenure. He’s been controversial on social media, in an industry where controversy is to be avoided as much as possible. His emotion has gotten the better of him, and may have ended his NHL career somewhat prematurely.
Whether or not that is the case, remains to be seen. The Rangers placed him on regular waivers, which allow them to reassign him and retain his rights. It may be that another team might be willing to give hi m a chance on a relatively short contract, especially if the Rangers retain some salary or take some contract back.
What is clear, is that he no longer welcome on the Rangers. He has been officially assigned to the taxi squad, but is not allowed to associate with the other players. Whether he plays again this year for another team, remains to be seen, but for now his career is in limbo.