Tony DeAngelo has played his last game for the New York Rangers, general manager Jeff Gorton said Monday.
Gorton and Rangers president John Davidson confirmed there was an incident between DeAngelo, a defenseman, and goalie Alexandar Georgiev following a 5-4 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
It has been widely reported that DeAngelo and Georgiev had an altercation in the runway between the ice and the home dressing room that was quickly broken up by another player.
DeAngelo was assigned to the taxi squad after clearing waivers Monday, but he will not be around the Rangers. Gorton said they will now explore ways to allow DeAngelo to continue his career elsewhere. He had one point, an assist, and a minus-6 rating in six games after signing a two-year, $9.6 million contract ($4.8 million average annual value) on Oct. 15. The 25-year-old was fourth among NHL defensemen last season with 53 points (15 goals, 38 assists) in 68 games.
“What happens going forward, I don’t have the answer for that,” Gorton said Monday before a 3-1 win against the Penguins. “He’s been assigned right now to the taxi squad, but we’ll look right now to see if there’s another place for him to play.
“We’re dealing with it. This is one of the ways we’re dealing with it. Our team is ready to move on. [Georgiev] is going to back up [Igor Shesterkin] tonight. … Our team is ready to move on. We obviously had an incident. We’ve dealt with it and now we’re ready to play the Penguins tonight.”
Gorton said waiving DeAngelo was a result of a culmination of incidents this season that was becoming a distraction, including the way the defenseman reacted to being scratched earlier this season.
DeAngelo was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on top of a holding penalty in the third period of a 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders on Jan. 14. He didn’t play the next two games.
“You know what, Tony wasn’t able to move on from that; it was something that he was trying to get through,” Gorton said. “I had spoken to him at that time and said, ‘Listen, if there are any more issues here, the time is going to come where we’re going to put you on waivers and move on. No more issues. If your name is in anything at all that we have to hear, we’re going to move on. We’re going to make that move.’ I made that statement to him, something happened [Saturday] and I pretty much have to stay true to my word here and the organization’s word that it was time to move on. That’s what it is.
“We feel like moving on from Tony is the right thing to do. It’s about winning and we feel like this is a move we had to make in our room to put us on a path to winning.”
Rangers coach David Quinn said he had a text conversation with DeAngelo on Monday. He wouldn’t divulge the details but said “under the circumstances, it was probably way better than people would have imagined.”
Quinn also called DeAngelo “a very well-liked teammate” who was also liked by the coaches, but he thinks the players will respond well without him.
“I don’t think it’s going to affect our guys because over the last 24 hours or 36 hours, there’s been a good feel,” Quinn said. “There’s been a lot of transparency. Guys have talked amongst themselves. We’ve had good conversations with our captains (forwards Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin, and defenseman Jacob Trouba). I think we’re in a good position right now.”
Defenseman Anthony Bitetto replaced DeAngelo and made his Rangers debut Monday; he had four hits and blocked two shots in 14:51 of ice time. Bitetto had eight assists in 51 games for the Winnipeg Jets last season.
“Tony was a talented defenseman for us,” Quinn said. “He’s not going to be replaced by one guy. I think all six guys have to elevate their game a little bit.”