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NHL

Tony DeAngelo Finally Crossed The Line

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 26: Tony DeAngelo #77 of the New York Rangers during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on January 26 , 2021 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images)
Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

What’s the deal with Tony DeAngelo? Great question! Depends on who you ask. From a pure hockey perspective, the 25-year-old defenseman is potentially an offensive force, last year placing fourth among all NHL blueliners in points. He’s a defensive liability, but you can accept that from a guy who puts up 53 points in 68 games. If you ask just about anyone else, though, the answer you’ll get is that Tony DeAngelo is an asshole.

A 2014 first-round pick, DeAngelo was suspended twice in the minors for violating the OHL’s harassment, abuse, and diversity policy by using unspecified slurs, one of them toward a teammate (DeAngelo’s father didn’t see what the big deal was). He was suspended in the NHL for abusing an official. His social media use was a constant headache for Rangers PR, with tweets ranging from attacking fans to crudely cheering on Donald Trump to some light COVID-19 denialism. When Twitter suspended Trump, a huffy DeAngelo deactivated his account in protest and declared he was joining Parler, a far-right alternative. On the season’s opening night, DeAngelo got embarrassed on the ice and embarrassed himself with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and was demoted to the taxi squad for two games.

And now, after a blowup with a teammate that may or may not have turned physical, DeAngelo has been placed on waivers. It’s all a confusing mess for now, but one sure thing is that no other team wants him, either.

It had become clear the Rangers’ patience with DeAngelo was wearing thin, despite New York having signed him to a two-year, $9.6 million extension last fall. Clear to everyone except DeAngelo, perhaps. In Saturday’s overtime loss to the Penguins, DeAngelo was on the ice for four of five Pittsburgh goals, and showed increasing physical frustration that was interpreted as showing up New York’s goalie Alexandar Georgiev. In overtime, a miscommunication between DeAngelo and Georgiev (at 0:06 of the below video) kept the Rangers from clearing the puck and changing out an exhausted trio of skaters, and a few seconds later Georgiev allowed the winner.

Here’s what we know for sure, which isn’t very much: As was first reported by The Athletic and confirmed by multiple outlets, after the game there was an “altercation” between DeAngelo and Georgiev in the tunnel to the dressing room. The New York Post has the most details, adding that it was “precipitated by a remark from DeAngelo to the goaltender just as the team left the ice,” and that a third player broke up the altercation.

Georgiev, incidentally (or not so incidentally), was held out of practice on Sunday for “maintenance.” DeAngelo was placed on waivers, giving other teams until noon Monday to claim him. None are expected to; when the Rangers tried to dangle DeAngelo as trade bait in the offseason, there were no bites, and he’s only increased his toxicity since then.

Things get a little murkier from here, a natural outcome of the combination of the Rangers staying tight-lipped about the altercation and a large majority of the fanbase actively despising DeAngelo. A completely unsourced rumor rocketing around Rangers Twitter holds that it was longtime Ranger Chris Kreider who “broke up” the altercation, and that he broke it up by punching DeAngelo. Again, this feels more like something fans want to be true than something that actually happened, but it’s at least illustrative of their feelings on DeAngelo. As is this:

Adam Herman of the Rangers blog Blueshirt Banter, citing unnamed sources, potentially fills in some backstory on why DeAngelo’s leash had gotten so short: a long-running beef with Georgiev and alleged bullying of rookie defenseman K’Andre Miller, the Rangers’ sole black player. According to Herman, DeAngelo snatched and kept the puck from Miller’s first NHL goal on Jan. 26.

There was some pushback on this specific allegation, if not on the other stuff. ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski spoke to Miller’s agent, who said, “It’s K’Andre’s understanding that the NYR equipment manager, or whoever is responsible for getting it, has the puck and that it’s being framed like other first goals. At no time did he think otherwise.”

The team hasn’t chosen to shed any light on what went down:

“There’s always rumors, as you know,” said Rangers coach David Quinn. “I’m not going to address rumors. This isn’t about one incident. It’s not about one thing. It’s a situation the organization felt was best at this current time and we’ll see how the situation plays out.”

More will become clear eventually, because this saga isn’t quite done. The Rangers placed DeAngelo on regular waivers rather than on unconditional waivers, which means they can’t yet just terminate his contract. It also isn’t probable they’d want to banish him to their AHL team in Hartford, even with the cap space it’d clear, if his being around the franchise’s young players has sort of been the entire problem so far. But even as unlikely as those two options might be, either still remains more plausible than DeAngelo playing for the Rangers again.