Larry Brooks noted yesterday that re-signing Tony DeAngelo to a long-term contract could have an impact on Nils Lundkvist. Brooks theorizes that signing DeAngelo to a long-term contract would mean Lundkvist would choose free agency in 2022 over signing with the NY Rangers. There’s certainly some logic, but let’s break this down.
1. If the Rangers commit to DeAngelo long-term, then they’d have Trouba-Fox-DeAngelo on the right side. Since the Rangers seem obsessed with handedness on the blue line, this would mean Lundkvist wouldn’t get any playing time. The logic is there on the surface. A lot can change between now and 2022 though.
2. It’s the Rangers’ own obsession with handedness that is forcing this discussion. The simple answer is move one of the three to the left side. Trouba is capable, but my preference would be moving DeAngelo to the left side. As an all-offense, almost minimal defense defenseman, moving to the left side could open up more offensive opportunities. From a tactics perspective, he would get a better vision of the play unfolding on the breakout, enabling cleaner transitions through the neutral zone.
3. I think it’s a little premature to say that Lundkvist won’t sign with the Rangers if they have three RDs already. Even if the Rangers don’t relent on their handedness obsession, there are ways to fix log jams. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
4. For those wondering why Lundkvist wouldn’t sign with a loaded team, it’s about playing time and opportunity. It’s why Kevin Hayes didn’t sign in Chicago. If there’s no roster spot for him, and he’s more or less NHL ready at this juncture, then why sign? He’d get buried or play in the AHL. That won’t help him maximize his career and earnings potential.
5. Lundkvist is projecting to be a far superior player than DeAngelo. His ceiling is the same offensive output, but actually good in his own end. His floor is “just” a three zone defenseman who will still contribute offensively. That is his projection, not a guarantee. It’s ok to hedge, but the Rangers appear committed to their rebuild, which means young, cheap talent.
6. A long-term DeAngelo contract is risky with a flat cap. However it’s not about this year or next, it’s about when Mika Zibanejad, Kaapo Kakko, and Adam Fox need new contracts for 2022-2023. It’s about Alexis Lafreniere, Morgan Barron, and K’Andre Miller needing new contracts in 2023-2024. That’s how far out cap planning goes. Does a one-dimensional defenseman at $5+ million hurt their cap situation? It might.
7. The Rangers can hedge though. A one or a two year contract for DeAngelo wouldn’t impact Nils Lundkvist that much. With DeAngelo heading to arbitration, that’s a realistic scenario. Perhaps kicking the can down the road is the best bet for all parties.