RALEIGH, N.C. — The points are nice, for sure. And no question that if they keep coming like they have to start this season, so will the big money when Tony DeAngelo hits this summer as a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.
But the Rangers 24-year-old defenseman already knows the fickle ways of the NHL marketplace. He had his holdout with the Blueshirts this past summer, when he was tardy to training camp because he wanted more years and more money than the one-year, $925,000 deal he eventually signed.
But with almost no leverage, he was finally convinced to take the deal and hit the ice. And it just so happened during the Rangers’ inconsistent start, he was consistently stuffing the stat sheet. The righty-shot had compiled five goals and 11 points in the first 13 games, including nine points in the previous seven games, going into the second leg of a back-to-back, against the Hurricanes on Thursday night.
“I think I kind of proved myself last year and I’m just trying to build off that,” DeAngelo said after the team’s 5-1 win over the lowly Red Wings at the Garden on Wednesday. “I’m not too worried about anything. I think whatever it is, contract-wise, it is what it is right now. I’ll take care of it in the summer, so I’m not too focused on it.
“Obviously, I want to have the best year I can, but right now we’re just worried about trying to win games.”
The Rangers haven’t done all that much winning, with the peaks and valleys of this young season having been extremely high and low. There were the five losses in six games that culminated in a 7-4 drubbing by the Bruins on Oct. 27, followed by two big wins over the stout Lightning and Predators. And then came another big-time clunker, against the annoying Senators on Monday.
The elixir came when the woeful Red Wings came to Broadway, when DeAngelo netted his second power-play goal of the year in what has become his patented move — jumping down from the blue line and a burying a loose puck around the net front.
“I think it’s part of my game. I need to put up points, and so far, so good, in that category,” DeAngelo said. “There are other parts of my game that I want to continue to work on here, and that’ll only help the points keep coming.”
DeAngelo has always been a mercurial player, beginning when the native of Sewell, N.J., just outside of Philadelphia, was drafted by the Lightning with the No. 19-overall pick in 2014. Before playing an NHL game, he was traded to the Coyotes, where he played in only 39 contests before being part of the deal that sent Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to Arizona at the 2017 draft.
He clearly plays the game with a lot of emotion, as shown by the first-period fight he got into with J.C. Beaudin on Monday. Sometimes that emotion boils over, as he has gone through a few suspensions while in juniors and the AHL.
Which maybe colors the outlook on his future, with general manager Jeff Gorton having to decide if he is going to be a part of their future or if he can trade him before the Feb. 24 deadline and continue to accelerate this rebuilding process.
One thing that’s clear is that coach David Quinn is likely going to be best served by playing DeAngelo big minutes.
“Tony has always been an offensive player who has great instincts, great skills, and I’m not surprised he’s putting up points at this rate,” Quinn said. “That’s why he was drafted in the first round and everyone has thought so highly of him.”
Where that lands DeAngelo a year from now is still to be determined, but stacking up the points surely isn’t going to hurt the future of his bank account.
“Obviously I’m at my best in the ‘O’ zone,” DeAngelo said. “I think the points are good, but I’m not too focused on it right now.”