The biggest news on the second day of the 2021 draft for the Rangers on Saturday was that Tony DeAngelo’s long, drawn-out departure from the organization became final when the club officially bought out the final year of the defenseman’s contract, making him a free agent.
The move became official at noon, when DeAngelo, 25, cleared unconditional waivers. He had been placed on unconditional waivers on Friday, for the purpose of buying him out of the two-year, $9.6 million contract he signed with the Rangers last October. It wrapped up an eventful week for the Rangers, who traded forward Pavel Buchnevich on Friday, and signed gritty forward Barclay Goodrow to a six-year contract on Thursday.
As for the draft itself, the Rangers did not have a second round pick, but they had two third-rounders, three fourth-rounders, and made seven total picks Saturday, after taking abrasive forward Brennan Othmann with the 16th overall selection in Friday’s first round.
Continuing with GM Chris Drury’s mission to add grit and physicality, the Rangers took 6-2, 200-pound center Jayden Grubbe, from the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels with the first pick of the third round, No. 65 overall, then followed by trading up five spots from No. 80 overall to grab 5-11, 174-pound center Ryder Korczak from Moose Jaw of the WHL at No. 75.
"Two kind of different kinds of players,’’ Drury said. "One's bigger, a little more rugged; the other one's a little smaller, a little more crafty -- a little different style player. But we’re happy to get them both.’’
In the fourth round, they took right wing Brody Lamb, of Green Bay of the USHL at No. 104, Finnish left wing Kalle Vaisanen at 106, and 6-8 goaltender Talyn Boyko at 112. In the fifth round, they took Jaroslav Chmelar, a 6-4, 198-pound right wing from the Czech Republic who plays in Finland, with Jokerit. In the seventh round, they took defenseman Hank Kempf, a 6-2, 190-pounder headed to Cornell in the fall.
With the draft now behind them, Drury and new coach Gerard Gallant can get back to continuing to fortify their roster for 2021-22. Free agency begins on Wednesday, and among the things the Rangers will be looking to bring in will be a veteran defenseman who can log significant minutes and help mentor some of the young defensemen who will be on the roster.
Drury also has to get to work signing some of the team’s restricted free agents – goaltender Igor Shesterkin, forward Filip Chytil and defenseman Libor Hajek among them – and he can start talking about contract extensions for Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox and No. 1 center Mika Zibanejad, too.
Keeping cap space available to sign Zibanejad and Fox is part of the reason why Buchnevich, who had his finest season in 2021, had to go. The Rangers sent him to St. Louis in exchange for 25-year-old grinding winger Sammy Blais and a 2022 second round pick.
DeAngelo, meanwhile, had his Rangers career come to an end after 167 games over parts of four seasons, in which he produced 19 goals and 73 assists. He had initially been waived in January by then-GM Jeff Gorton, and Drury said Saturday he never considered reversing course on that decision after he replaced Gorton in May.
"I think it's best for him, and best for us’’ to part ways, Drury said. "I had a good conversation with Tony (Friday) morning, and wish him well with whatever comes next for him in his career.’’
DeAngelo had career highs in goals (15), assists (38) and points (53) while serving as the point man on the Rangers’ top power play unit. But last season he committed a number of off- and on-ice transgressions – the final straw being a postgame fight with teammate Alexandar Georgiev – and was placed on waivers Jan. 31. When he went unclaimed, he was placed on the Rangers taxi squad, where he finished the season.
The Rangers were unable to trade DeAngelo at the deadline, and the expansion Seattle Kraken passed on selecting him in Wednesday’s expansion draft. So the Rangers bought him out, and in doing so, freed up roughly $4.4 million under the salary cap for 2021-22. They will carry $883,334 in dead money on their 2022-23 cap.