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Hurricanes sign controversial defenseman Tony DeAngelo to free-agent deal

·4 min read

The Carolina Hurricanes took a gamble Wednesday as NHL free agency began.

The Canes on Wednesday signed defenseman Tony DeAngelo to a one-year, $1 million contract. DeAngelo’s signing gave the Canes a right-shot D-man with solid offensive skills — in theory, help offset the loss of defenseman Dougie Hamilton, if he left the Canes in free agency — but also would come with a price.

DeAngelo’s personal background, on and off the ice, is problematic and controversial. The former New York Rangers defenseman, 25, was suspended in his junior hockey days in the Ontario Hockey League for abusive behavior. He has abused officials, in the OHL and NHL. He was put on unconditional waivers this past season by the Rangers after an incident involving a teammate and had his contract bought out, making him a free agent.

“Tony is a smooth-skating, puck-moving defenseman,” Canes president and general manager Don Waddell said in a statement Wednesday. “We’ve done a lot of background work on this player and we are confident that he can be a positive addition to our group.”

DeAngelo’s social media use has created negative attention. A supporter of former President Donald Trump, DeAngelo has tweeted about the 2020 presidential election being rigged. He also questioned the severity of the coronavirus pandemic on Twitter.

DeAngelo deactivated his Twitter account after Trump was banned from the platforming following the storming of the U.S. Capitol in January. DeAngelo then said he would join Parler, another social-media platform favored by Trump supporters and some ultra-conservatives.

The news about DeAngelo, first reported on Twitter by Frank Seravalli, created a big stir Tuesday among a number of Canes fans, who took to Twitter and other social-media avenues to voice their disapproval and continued it Wednesday.

Some noted that the Canes have cited the building of a “culture” of winning and the desire to bring in the right kind of player.

“If a guy doesn’t fit we don’t want him,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said after the 2020-21 season.

Slava Voynov, for example.

Another right-shot defenseman, Voynov won two Stanley Cups with the Los Angeles Kings when former Canes captain Justin Williams was a teammate. As the Canes approached the NHL trade deadline this past May, his name was mentioned.

Voynov has not played in the NHL since being suspended by the league in October 2014 following an arrest for domestic violence charges involving his wife. The Russian later pleaded no contest to a charge and was sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years probation, leaving in 2015 to play in Russia’s KHL.

Waddell said in March that Voynov was discussed by the Canes and Williams, an advisor to Waddell, weighed in during the discussion.

“We passed on it,” Waddell told the News & Observer.

DeAngelo was a first-round draft pick — No. 19 overall — by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2014. He was traded to the Arizona Coyotes, then to the Rangers in 2017.

DeAngelo led Rangers defensemen with 53 points in 68 games in 2019-20, a season disrupted by the pandemic. For DeAngelo and the Rangers, their last game in 2019-20 had a nightmarish end — one that most Canes fans fondly remember.

The Canes swept the Rangers in the best-of-five postseason qualifier in the Toronto bubble in August 2020. In the third game, Canes center Sebastian Aho undressed DeAngelo with a quick move to the net with the puck, leaving the D-man standing frozen like an ice sculpture and scoring on a wicked backhander.

The Aho highlight quickly went viral. The Rangers went home.

DeAngelo signed a two-year, $9.6-million contract with the Rangers in October 2020 as a restricted free agent. His 2020-21 season ended after the Jan. 30 dust-up with a teammate. He played just six games.

In junior hockey with the Sarnia Sting of the AHL, DeAngelo was suspended for abuse of officials and for violations of the league’s policy on preventing “homophobic, racist and sexist language.”

DeAngelo, while draft-eligible in February 2014, was suspended by the OHL for what the league announced was a “most inappropriate statement” to a teammate.

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