One of the most coveted archetypes in the NHL right now is a right-shot defenseman who can provide offense. So it speaks volumes that despite the fact he fits that description perfectly, Tony DeAngelo was waived by the New York Rangers on Sunday, then went unclaimed by every other NHL franchise.
DeAngelo was one of the highest-scoring D-men in the league last year with 53 points in 68 games, but he struggled to produce early on this season - heck, he struggled to simply find a place in the lineup, to be honest. And when he allegedly got into an altercation with goaltender Alexandar Georgiev after an OT loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, DeAngelo had evidently run out of free passes in New York.
While Twitter was buzzing with gossip about DeAngelo on Sunday, we really only know that the defenseman's antics had finally gone too far for the Rangers. This is a player who has been courting controversy his entire career - he delighted in trolling people on Twitter with his political views until very recently - but teams were willing to give him second and third chances because he was an ace on the power play and was great at moving the puck up the ice.
But his body language has never been good and more damning than that, his character has been a huge red flag going back to his junior days with the OHL's Sarnia Sting.
The most disappointing aspect of this story? The hockey establishment didn't seem to care. During his draft year, DeAngelo was suspended twice in Sarnia, once for verbally abusing an official, and once for verbally abusing his own teammate.
Nonetheless, the NHL decided to make DeAngelo one of the centerpieces of the 2014 Draft in Philadelphia, since he hailed from Sewell, NJ, just across the river from Philly. Each year at the draft, the NHL makes about a dozen top players available to the media the day before the first round - it's usually an excellent event and features the players most likely to go in the top 10. DeAngelo was not a top-end draft prospect and he wasn't even a lock to go in the first round according to the scouts I spoke to for Draft Preview that year; the character issues had to be weighed against the talent and that made him more of a 25-40 kind of guy.
Bringing a local kid to media day makes sense on the surface, but that had blown up in the NHL's face just a few years prior in Minnesota when Seth Ambroz was included, only to see him stay on the board until the fifth round when Columbus mercifully grabbed the Golden Gophers commit with the 128th pick overall (and just so we're not getting anything twisted, Ambroz was never accused of having bad character; scouts just didn't see him as a high pick).
Now the league was tacitly endorsing a kid with character issues because of geography.
DeAngelo did end up going in the first round, with Tampa Bay taking a chance with the 19th selection overall. But the defenseman only got as far as the AHL's Syracuse Crunch before the Lightning dealt him to Arizona in 2016. From there, he split his next season between Arizona and AHL Tucson.
But it wasn't long before DeAngelo was on the move again, dealt to the Rangers in the Derek Stepan/Antti Raanta deal. At the time, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton said DeAngelo was the type of player New York needed: a right-handed, puck-moving defenseman.
A little more than three seasons later, DeAngelo has worn out his welcome in New York.
It would be great to say that character matters in the NHL and that's why DeAngelo is gone, but the fact is his character has been an issue for eight years and he still found work. While the alleged run-in with Georgiev might have been the final straw, I worry that DeAngelo's lack of effectiveness on the ice (I mean, he's bad at defending, he's just good at bringing offense from the blueline) was just as much a factor.
And we've seen this before: Steve Downie somehow came out of the OHL Windsor hazing scandal unscathed, playing for six different NHL franchises in his career thanks to his physicality and willingness to fight. When Downie was done, it was because hockey wrung out all the PIMs it needed from him; not because it retroactively felt bad for Akim Aliu.
It will be very interesting to see if any NHL team gives DeAngelo another shot now. Even if the Rangers are willing to eat some of his cap hit, it's not a given. Rebuilding teams such as Ottawa or Detroit can't risk a negative influence in their young dressing rooms right now, while good teams may not want the headache that comes with DeAngelo and his baggage.
If DeAngelo can't find a new home, it truly will be on him and him alone. Of course, the KHL is always open for business...