Many were skeptical, to put it nicely, when the Carolina Hurricanes chose to sign defenceman Tony DeAngelo to a one-year, $1 million deal. While both the salary and term don’t suggest it, it was a move that came with a ton of risk. Early on, though, it has worked out phenomenally for both the team and player.
Based on just playing abilities, DeAngelo is worth far more than the $1 million he commands. Unfortunately, his playing abilities have never been his issue. The 26-year-old has a less than stellar reputation to many, which first started back in his days in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), where he was twice reprimanded for uttering inappropriate slurs. That reputation only became worse in recent years as a result of social media, in particular on his now deactivated Twitter account, where he wasn’t shy to share his far-right political views.
Having political views is one thing, but it became a major distraction for both DeAngelo and his former team, the New York Rangers, and he was asked on at least one occasion by management to get rid of his social media. He chose not to listen, and the frustrations with that paired with an altercation between him and goaltender Alexander Georgiev, forced the Rangers to send him home for the remainder of the 2020-21 season and buy out the remaining year on his contract.
The deal he was bought out from was a two-year, $9.6 million contract that seemed like a team-friendly deal given that he had posted a career high 53 points in just 68 games in 2019-20. Still, his off ice issues saw him play in just six games after signing that deal, and some questioned if he had perhaps worn out his welcome in the NHL.
Hurricanes Gave DeAngelo a Lifeline
With it becoming evident that the Hurricanes were not going to be able to afford Dougie Hamilton this offseason, general manager Don Waddell chose to look to replace him with DeAngelo, giving the controversial defenceman one final chance in the NHL.
So far, the decision to let Hamilton walk is looking like a very good call for the Hurricanes. Though he has played very well with the New Jersey Devils with 10 points in 13 games, he has a very high $9 million cap hit. Not only does DeAngelo make $8 million less, but to this point in the season he has also outproduced Hamilton with 16 points in 17 contests.
The bread and butter of DeAngelo’s game comes at the offensive end of the ice. Those offensive skills have helped the Hurricanes plenty, particularly on the power play where they have converted on 22.4 per cent of their opportunities, good enough for eighth in the league.
DeAngelo has points on six of the Hurricanes 13 power play goals to this point in 2021-22, just one shy of the team lead seven, held by both Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov.
DeAngelo’s Defensive Game Has Been Better Than Expected
While DeAngelo is known for his offensive skills, his defensive play has been questioned at times in the past. Outside of just a few mistakes with the Hurricanes to this point however, his play defensively has been nothing to complain about. In fact, his plus/minus of plus 12 currently leads the entire Canes roster.
Of course, that has come thanks to seeing some easy matchups at even strength, as head coach Rod Brind’Amour uses him far less at 5v5 than some of his other top defenders in Jaccob Slavin, Brady Skjei, Brett Pesce and even Ethan Bear. That won’t bother anybody if he is able to continue doing the one thing they brought him in for, which is producing offence.
Hurricanes System a Great One to Buy Into
There are very few individuals who command respect more in the game of hockey than Rod Brind’Amour. The now 51-year-old was a heart and soul player who recorded over 1,100 points during his illustrious career, and was renowned for his extreme work ethic. That work ethic allowed him the honour of wearing the ‘C’ for four seasons with the Hurricanes, and an ‘A’ for many more.
He continues to command that respect as a coach, and over the years many players have been vocal about how great he is to play for. The hard work mentality he has instilled in the Hurricanes since taking over as head coach prior to the 2018-19 season has turned them into legitimate Stanley Cup contenders, and also earned him the Jack Adams Award for the leagues best coach in 2020-21.
The point of this is to say that, if there is a team who will be able to fix what many view as character issues with DeAngelo, the Hurricanes are the one. At the same time, with how much work he has put in to developing the character in his teams dressing room, you can bet that if DeAngelo does happen to step out of line, Brind’Amour will have zero issue moving on from him. By all accounts early on he has been a great teammate, and hopefully under his head coach’s guidance, that can continue to be the case moving forward.
DeAngelo Appears to be Maturing
When DeAngelo was signed by the Hurricanes this offseason, one of the most talked about issues was the fact he would be on a team with Ethan Bear, who is Cree and spoke openly about racism he faced near the time he was traded from the Edmonton Oilers. Many believed this could be an issue given DeAngelo’s past issues of slurs while in the OHL. To his credit, however, he reached out to Bear immediately after signing his one-year deal, and Bear mentioned how much he appreciated that at the time it happened.
“He actually messaged me yesterday and I really appreciated that from him,” Bear said. “I never judge a book by its cover and I always believe everyone deserves a second chance. And you never know what can happen.”
This came shortly after a DeAngelo press conference in which he said he is a changed person and would be a great teammate in Carolina. While it is still very early, he appears to be just that early on.
Steal of a Deal
With the numbers he has posted early into the season, this contract looks like a major steal for the Hurricanes. Of course, everyone knew at the time DeAngelo signed it that his skill warranted a much bigger contract. The issue of course was his character, but so far so good on that front. If he is able to keep this up, his deal could truly end up being the biggest bargain contract in the NHL this season. Through their 17 games thus far in the 2021-22 season, this team appears as good of a bet as any to hoist the Stanley Cup in 2022, and DeAngelo is a huge reason why.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Oil On Whyte, NHLtradetalk.com, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.