MONTREAL – Knowing his team needed a premium player on defense, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher was willing to roll the dice on a player with a spotty background.
But when you have a coach who holds player accountable like new bench boss John Tortorella, chances are the bones will come up with a lucky seven.
That was the case on Friday when Fletcher acquired Carolina’s Tony DeAngelo, who misbehaved his way out of town from the New York Rangers a couple seasons back and is now about to play for his fourth team in the past six years.
The price was steep: A fourth-round pick in Friday’s draft, a conditional third-rounder in 2023 and a second-rounder in 2024.
Fletcher admits DeAngelo acted a bit immaturely when he got into an altercation when he was with the Broadway Blueshirts.
In January, 2021, the 26-year-old DeAngelo had it out with then-Rangers backup goaltender Alexander Georgiev in the tunnel that leads to the locker room. A month later, he was placed on waivers by New York.
Prior to that, DeAngelo was suspended twice in the junior hockey Ontario Hockey League for abuse of officials and for violating the OHL’s policy for keeping “homophobic, racist and sexist language out of the game.’’
Fletcher said the Flyers did “due diligence’’ on DeAngelo, who was a first-round draft pick (19th overall) of Tampa in 2014. He played one season for Arizona, four seasons for the Rangers and one for Carolina.
“Tony, as a young man, has played on a lot of teams,’’ Fletcher said as the draft concluded at the Bell Centre. “He’s certainly someone who has had some incidents in his past that have probably gotten him into some trouble. He’s paid the consequences for those actions.
“We believe he’s learned from them. So from everything we can gather, (after) speaking with Carolina players. . .it seems like he’s really worked hard the last year and a half to change his ways. He’s older, he maturing and from all accounts he did a good job both on and off the ice last season.’’
Accountability could make the difference for DeAngelo, who quickly signed a two-year, $10-million contract after the trade.
“He’s really no different than any other player on our team,’’ Fletcher said. “We hold our players to a high standard of conduct on and off the ice. John Tortorella certainly is somebody who will hold players accountable. We intend to make sure everyone is doing the right thing on and off the ice.’’
Fletcher said he intends to meet and talk with DeAngelo in the next few days to make sure everyone is on the same page with on-ice/off-ice conduct
“I don’t anticipate any issues,’’ Fletcher said. “He had a terrific season. We’re confident this will be a good relationship.’’
The GM reiterated DeAngelo has made some mistakes and paid the consequences for them. I think he’s maturing from everything we can gather.”
DeAngelo sounded thrilled to be getting another fresh start. He’s from nearby Sewell, N.J. so there’s a natural connection.
“It’s a dream come true for me,’’ he said. “I was born in Jersey, but really my entire family besides myself comes from Philly. That’s where we lived. Been a Flyers fan since the day I can remember. Like I said, it’s a dream come true. I just posted on Instagram. I could not be more excited to put the jersey over my shoulders. I’m looking forward to it.’’
He was asked what he can bring to the Flyers next season.
“I’m going to bring the puck moving,’’ he said. “I think I do a really good job moving the puck. I’ve been on the power play a lot of times in my career. Obviously, that’s a coach’s decision. I run a good power play. I think the Flyers are looking for that kind of player.’’
DeAngelo can add some badly needed offense from the back line.
“I can fill a good void for them there,’’ he said. I can move the puck out of the zone. I try to make offensive plays. At the same time, I think I’ve taken a lot of strides on the defensive side of the puck too. That’s the main part of the game as a defenseman. You have got to defend.
“I think I’ve gotten better and better each year. I continue to improve and plan on improving even more this year. Total package in the game. I think the fans would appreciate the most of me is that no matter what I do, I have passion for the game. The compete level that I have and the will to do whatever it takes to win. I think that’s the Philly mentality. I think that’s what I can bring and they will appreciate that.’’
DeAngelo is good friends with the Flyers’ Kevin Hayes, so that should help keep things on an even keel in the locker room.
“Hayes is one of my real, real good buddies,’’ DeAngelo said. “We’ve been super close since we met playing for the Rangers. I’m really looking forward to getting back with him. I know Joel (Farabee). Joel plays on my charity teams in the summer. Looking forward to seeing him get back healthy and getting back out there. You meet so many guys throughout your career playing around the league. Even guys you don’t really know, you kind of know them a little bit just by talking to people. I don’t think it will be a too crazy adjustment coming into the locker room to feel comfortable.’’