Tony DeAngelo #77 of the Carolina Hurricanes and Frank Vatrano...

Tony DeAngelo #77 of the Carolina Hurricanes and Frank Vatrano #77 of the New York Rangers battle for the puck during Game Three of the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, May 22, 2022 in New York City. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Whatever was going to happen at Madison Square Garden in Tuesday night’s Game 4, the expectation was Tony DeAngelo would be in the middle of it for the Hurricanes.

The ex-Ranger's reputation is what it is. Outspoken off the ice. A history of run-ins with other players, some of them teammates. At 26, the playmaking defenseman may never escape that as long as he’s in the NHL.

Know what? The Hurricanes don’t care. They didn’t need DeAngelo to pass some character litmus test. They didn’t need Mr. Clean walking into their room. They just needed a replacement for Norris Trophy candidate Dougie Hamilton.

So DeAngelo became a perfect fit for the Hurricanes after the previous Rangers’ management deemed him unfit to wear a Blueshirt.

“That was the big part of it,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said of swapping in DeAngelo for Hamilton. “We lost a world class player. Right shot, world class player and then we got one back. That, to me, is really maybe more important than how well he fit in or whatever it was. We had a huge hole to fill and he's filled it very well.”

DeAngelo was certainly in the middle of it at the end of the Rangers’ 3-1 win in Sunday’s Game 3 at the Garden. The Hurricanes’ Max Domi cross checked hurting defenseman Ryan Lindgren and DeAngelo’s continued yapping finally got under the skin of Rangers coach Gerard Gallant, who yelled back, “Shut the [heck] up,” adding the universal chirping sign with his right hand.

Afterward, Gallant said he didn’t like the [expletive] the Hurricanes initiated and noted he had Ryan Reaves he could sic on them.

Of course, this is just hockey or, more specifically, playoff hockey where the grind of successive games begats antagonism between the teams.

The players simply don’t see what happened in Game 3, or what might happen in Game 4, as a big deal.

“You make a big deal out of everything,” Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba told the media. “It doesn’t shock me.”

But it’s not totally not a big deal.

And that brings us back to DeAngelo.

He had a superb first season with the Hurricanes with 10 goals and 41 assists in 64 regular-season games and a goal and seven assists in his first 10 playoff games. This on a one-year, $1 million show-me contract after the Rangers bought out the second season of his two-year, $9.6 million deal.

DeAngelo played just six games for the Rangers in 2020-21 before an altercation with goalie Alexandar Georgiev. Then-Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton placed DeAngelo on the taxi squad but made it clear he would not play for the team again.

Chances are, the Rangers would have moved on from DeAngelo anyway after the season, given their salary cap situation and the pipeline of fine young defensemen in the organization.

But it can’t be overlooked that DeAngelo came to Carolina and stayed out of trouble.

Other than annoying the heck out of opponents.

“Tony has been a huge player for us,” Hurricanes defenseman Ian Cole said. “He’s emotional. He plays with passion. He has all the skill in the world. He's a heck of a power-play quarterback. So I don't think you want to dampen what he brings to the table as far as passion and emotion. That's what makes him who he is, which is fantastic for us.

“Reaves says he’s going to run guys. You put a little bit of a target on your back. But I don't think [DeAngelo] is disillusioned to the fact that that's probably going to be the case. Agitators, around the league, they usually have a target on their back. They [tick] guys off, which is part of the deal. If you're [ticking] guys off, maybe you're doing a good job of what you intend to do. We love Tony. We love having him on this team. Whatever happens the rest of this series, so be it.”

As far as Cole is concerned, the Hurricanes’ scouts and GM Don Waddell deserve “kudos” for signing DeAngelo.

He’s not likely to ever receive a vote for the Lady Byng Trophy [gentlemanly play]. But that’s not the Hurricanes’ concern.

They just need him to beat the Rangers.