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Veteran Defenceman Heads Back Home

Ryan McDonagh is back via trade in the city where he was a vital part of consecutive Stanley Cup wins. The Nashville Predators moved McDonagh, and his substantial salary, to the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier today. Along with McDonagh on the blueline, Tampa also receives a 2024 fourth rounder. In exchange to the Predators, who receive a 2025 second round pick and a 2024 seventh round pick.

Lightning and Predators Move Ryan McDonagh Again

McDonagh averaged nearly 23 minutes of ice time in Tampa Bay’s 2020-21 victory, over 24 minutes the year before. Even in their attempted three-peat, he was well over 22 minutes per game. But his $6.75 million cap hit was getting harder to maneuver around, and they asked him to waive his no-trade clause for Nashville.

He did well with the Predators, though the team missed the playoffs in his first season there. What should have been a push to get beyond the first round instead ended John Hynes’ coaching stay. The next year, under Andrew Brunette, the 34-year-old McDonagh took a leadership role, improving his offensive output and his defence. They charged to the second wild card slot and into the playoffs after being written off. McDonagh continued his strong play against the Vancouver Canucks, putting up an assist and 6 minutes in penalties before they were eliminated in their first round 2024 NHL Stanley Cup playoff matchup.

Who Gets What

Tampa Bay is in an interesting spot. They aren’t a young team by any stretch of the imagination and with captain Steven Stamkos an unrestricted free agent a rebuild would seem to be the right choice. But with this deal, they are bringing in not only an older player but an expensive one for two more seasons.

One reason is who they have locked up long-term. Even if they do let Stamkos walk, the team has plenty of firepower to contend again next season. By acquiring Ryan McDonagh in trade, it will help fill in a leadership role. And the dearth of high draft picks in the next two seasons means a rebuild will have to wait.

Nashville frees up a lot of salary cap space and improves their stock of draft picks. If they go the rebuild route, it’s well-timed. They still have to ride out the cap recapture penalties of Kyle Turris and Matt Duchene and retention of Ryan Johansen. They have a decision to make regarding warhorse netminder Jusse Saros, but whatever they choose they’ll be able to afford it.

Main photo credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports


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