Rangers Demote Top Player and Say He Won’t Be Back

Tony DeAngelo was sent to the Rangers’ practice unit on Monday, one day after the team waived the high-priced defenseman, who was on the ice as his team surrendered four goals in a 5-4 overtime loss on Saturday to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

DeAngelo, 25, signed a two-year, $9.6 million contract extension in October after a season in which he scored 15 goals and had 53 points, both career highs, in 68 games. He had only one assist and a minus-six rating in six games this season for the Rangers, who improved to 3-4-2 after Monday’s win over Pittsburgh.

According to multiple news reports, DeAngelo and goaltender Alexandar Georgiev had a physical confrontation after Saturday night’s loss. Just before Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal, DeAngelo and Georgiev appeared to have a miscommunication over handling the puck behind the Rangers’ net.

“We had an incident that happened,” Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton said. “It’s in our room, we’re dealing with it. This is one of the ways we’re dealing with it. Our team is ready to move on.”

After DeAngelo cleared waivers Monday, the Rangers had the option of sending him to their A.H.L. affiliate in Hartford, Conn., assigning him to the Rangers’ practice unit or releasing him outright.

Assigning DeAngelo to the Hartford Wolf Pack would have subtracted $1.075 million from his $4.8 million salary-cap hit. The Rangers have no opportunity to buy out the remainder of DeAngelo’s contract until the summer.

Instead, the Rangers will pursue a trade.

“He has played his last game for the Rangers,’’ Gorton said. “What happens going forward, I don’t have the answer for that. He’s been assigned to our taxi squad. We’ll look right now to see if there’s another place for him to play.”

Rangers Coach Davd Quinn had benched DeAngelo twice over the past three seasons, most recently for two games after he incurred an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty for slamming the penalty box door and yelling at referees late in an opening-night loss to the Islanders.

Gorton said he spoke with DeAngelo after that game and indicated that if there were further issues, “the time is going to come where we’re going to put you on waivers and move on.”

“I just felt like this was becoming a distraction and we’re trying to stay true to our word here,” Gorton said.

DeAngelo has been involved in controversies on and off the ice during his career. DeAngelo has played down the severity of the coronavirus on social media. He took down his Twitter page in January and said he would be joining Parler, the app some conservatives began using after Facebook and Twitter began flagging posts for misinformation.

His opinions on social media weren’t a factor in the decision to waive DeAngelo, the team’s second-highest-paid defenseman by average annual value, Rangers President John Davidson said.

“I think there’s a fine line obviously with social media but there’s also freedom of speech and we certainly watch what our players say and do on social media,’’ Davidson said. “But that had nothing to do with this.”

Davidson added that he had spoken to DeAngelo and wanted to help him.

“Some time ago, I had Tony into my office at the training center,” Davidson said. “We had a real good conversation and my feeling was that with Tony we had to try to help Tony. Tony’s got a lot of good attributes. Sometimes he gets in his own way, which has happened again. And we had to make it clear that if something came up again, that something’s going to happen. And that’s exactly what happened.”

While playing junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League, DeAngelo was twice suspended for violating the league’s harassment, abuse and diversity policy — at least once after using an unspecified slur against a teammate. And he was suspended once in juniors and again with the Arizona Coyotes for abuse of an official.

The Rangers acquired DeAngelo, a first-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2014, from the Coyotes in June 2017 as part of a trade for center Derek Stepan and goaltender Antti Raanta.

Gorton said the team had done its research on DeAngelo at that time.

“We did a lot of research, talked to a lot of people about Tony prior to acquiring him,’’ Gorton said. “We did our homework, we felt comfortable. If you look at his track record on the ice with us I think you know his season spoke for itself last year. There’s been a few things along the way but really nothing that would suggest anything from his past and junior. There’s been nothing like that that’s ever come up with us.”

The Rangers’ game Saturday against the Devils has been postponed as part of the schedule changes caused by the Devils’ having 10 players on the N.H.L.’s Covid-19 protocols list. The Devils will not play until at least Saturday. The Rangers also added Kaapo Kakko, a second-year forward, to the Covid-19 list.

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