These are your Carolina Hurricanes. Get used to it.
Six days after popular and affable goalie Alex Nedeljkovic was shipped out to the Detroit Red Wings, the Hurricanes on Wednesday (partially) replaced Dougie Hamilton with perhaps the least likeable player in the entire league.
Even as the Hurricanes underwent what appears to be a complete makeover in goal, adding Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta, among other unconfirmed moves, it was hard to get past the free-agent signing of recidivist power-play specialist Tony DeAngelo, who at 25 will be joining his fourth NHL franchise, having burned many bridges behind him.
By a rough count, this is at least his fifth chance, the kind of repeated indulgence only raw talent can buy you. He’s signing a one-year deal for $1 million, the kind of contract you sign when you have nowhere else to go.
The Hurricanes deliberately chose to bring into their fold a player who was suspended in junior hockey for violating the Ontario Hockey League’s harassment, abuse and diversity policy against his own teammate. A player with a history of abusing officials. A player who the New York Rangers told to go pound sand in the middle of last season after reportedly instigating a fight with a teammate. A player whose behavior has remained consistent for more than seven years.
This isn’t even about DeAngelo’s politics, as much as he has indulged those whims on social media. A healthy locker room can absorb just about any amount of factional friction, even a player who defended himself to the New York Post by saying “I’m not a racist, I’m not an extremist and I’m not an insurrectionist.”
(There’s an Internet meme for that: My “I’m not racist, I’m not an extremist and I’m not an insurrectionist” T-shirt has people asking a lot of questions already answered by my shirt.)
It’s part of a very disturbing trend. The DeAngelo signing comes on the heels of the Hurricanes’ flirtation with Slava Voynov last spring, the defenseman banned from the NHL after he was charged with beating his wife. It comes amid their rumored interest in forward Jake Virtanen, bought out by the Vancouver Canucks after he was accused of sexual assault.
The Hurricanes are making it clear there’s no column for character on Tom Dundon’s spreadsheet. “Bunch of Jerks” went from a clever marketing tagline to a cynical roster strategy.
They will spin the DeAngelo signing until everyone’s dizzy. He’s a talented player who deserves a second — or fifth — chance. Rod Brind’Amour will set him straight. At the price, he’s a bargain who will help fill the void Hamilton leaves and allow the team to use its cap space more effectively and make the Hurricanes a better team. Some of that may even be true.