DENVER — Tony DeAngelo is going to get paid this summer.
The Rangers defenseman, who was set to play his 200th NHL game Wednesday night when the Rangers visited the Colorado Avalanche in the second game of their three-game road trip, is having a breakout year as he approaches restricted free agency with arbitration rights. Entering Wednesday’s game, the 24-year-old from Sewell, New Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia, was tied for fourth in scoring among defensemen in the league, with career highs in goals (15), assists (38) and points (53).
And after being forced to settle for a one-year, $925,000 deal following a brief training camp holdout last fall, those numbers are going to get DeAngelo a big raise, likely north of $5 million per season on a multi-year deal.
DeAngelo, though, insisted he isn’t thinking about all that right now.
“No. Maybe once in a while, I guess, you think about it,’’ he said. “But . . . right now, we're trying to win and make the playoffs. If we can make the playoffs, everybody's going to do better financially, as players individually, and as a team. So that's the goal.’’
The Rangers began play Wednesday three points out of a wild-card playoff spot, and all of the teams they were trailing – Carolina, Columbus and the Islanders — were idle Wednesday, meaning a victory over the Avalanche would pull the Blueshirts to within one point of a playoff spot with 12 games left.
While Artemi Panarin’s MVP-caliber season, Mika Zibanejad’s career-high 40 goals, and rookie goaltender Igor Shesterkin have drawn more attention, DeAngelo has been a huge contributor to the Rangers’ playoff chase as well. He’s been the No. 1 point man on a power play unit that was fifth in the league entering Wednesday, clicking at a rate of 23.2 percent. And the 5-11, 180-pounder says he is enjoying the finest season of his four-year career because of a combination of comfort, maturity, and the faith and confidence of coach David Quinn, who has allowed him the freedom to play the game the way he knows how.
“Offensively, he's not saying, 'You can't do this. You can't do that,' ’’ DeAngelo said of Quinn. “So, it's kind of, letting your offensive abilities take over, but you got to defend hard and still play with the team structure, in other areas.’’
DeAngelo, who had a reputation for being a hothead when he was younger, admitted his relationship had to evolve with Quinn, the second-year coach with whom he clashed several times last season. He had to earn Quinn’s trust, he said. But things have been smooth in the pair’s second season together.
“It's my first time playing with the same coach [at the professional level] for two years in a row, and once you get to know somebody and they know how you play, and what makes you tick, it's kind of makes it a lot easier for you,’’ he said.
Gaining Quinn’s trust may have convinced Rangers management that perhaps an older, wiser DeAngelo is a player they want to keep as the team continues the upward trajectory of the organization’s rebuild. At the NHL trade deadline, the team dealt defenseman Brady Skjei to Carolina, which opened up room under the salary cap into which they could presumably fit a new contract for DeAngelo.
DeAngelo, though, wasn’t happy to see Skjei go.
“Brady was too good of a friend for me to worry about that,’’ he said. “He's one of the best guys I've played with, so it’s tough losing guy like that.’’
Fogarty called up on emergency basis
With Filip Chytil (14 goals, 9 assists in 60 games) having suffered a lower-body injury in Tuesday’s game, the Rangers called up forward Steven Fogarty from AHL Hartford on an emergency basis Wednesday. Fogarty played in six games with the Rangers earlier this season.