On February 26th, 2018, the Tampa Bay Lightning pulled the trigger on one of the biggest trades in franchise history, acquiring Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller from the New York Rangers in exchange for Vladislav Namestnikov, Brett Howden, Libor Hajek, a 2018 first-round pick, and a 2019 second-round pick. This was Steve Yzerman’s last significant trade as General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning before accepting the same position with the Detroit Red Wings in April of 2019. However, yesterday, the Tampa Bay Lightning and GM Julien BriseBois sent McDonagh to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Philippe Myers and Grant Mismash. This was a deal we certainly did not expect, as McDonagh was one of the team’s most important players in all of their recent playoff runs, as well as a significant locker room presence.
Ryan McDonagh’s impact on the Tampa Bay Lightning over the past five seasons cannot be understated. Since arriving in Tampa, McDonagh has scored twenty-two goals, along with one-hundred and three assists for one-hundred-twenty-five points in two-hundred-sixty-seven games (0.46 ppg). In the playoffs, he was a crucial part of Tampa Bay’s three consecutive Stanley Cup Finals appearances, as he logged an average of 22.75 minutes per game during his five postseason runs with the Lightning. In fact, during those heavy minutes, McDonagh set the NHL record for most career-blocked shots in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 386 during Tampa’s recent loss to the Colorado Avalanche. Not only was Ryan McDonagh one of Tampa Bay’s best defensemen over his stint with the club, he’s also been one of the best AB-defensemen in the league since his rookie season in 2010-11 with the New York Rangers. In the twelve seasons of data we have on McDonagh, he has never registered a negative individual AB score. He has a career AB of +8.21, which is incredible for a defenseman. In fact, his +7.37 score in 2021-22 was the third-highest of any Lightning defenseman, behind only Victor Hedman’s +12.15 and Jan Rutta’s +9.70. This number was also good for the 38th highest score by a defenseman in the NHL during the 2021-22 season, out of a possible 275 players. McDonagh is under contract for four more seasons at a $6.75 million cap hit, which is the apparent reason for his departure from the team he’s had so much success with. Tampa has Ondrej Palat, Riley Nash, Jan Rutta, and Brian Elliott set to become unrestricted free agents this summer and will need to sign Mikhail Sergachev, Erik Cernak, Cal Foote, and Anthony Cirelli after the conclusion of next season, making the “acquisition” of cap relief in this trade essential.
Tampa’s return for McDonagh includes defenseman Philippe Myers, who scored one goal with three assists for four points in twenty-seven games with the Nashville Predators this season. Myers registered a -1.46 individual AB score in 2021-22, which was actually the best individual score of his four-year career. Along with Myers, Tampa Bay also gets prospect Grant Mismash, a former second-round pick by the Predators in the 2017 NHL draft. Mismash scored six goals with six assists for twelve points in fifty-seven games with the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL this season, after spending the last four seasons playing for the University of North Dakota.
Although we love Ryan McDonagh the player, we wonder what the Nashville Predators were thinking when making this deal. Of course, Ryan McDonagh is an elite top-four defenseman on almost every team in the NHL, however, we didn’t expect the Nashville Predators of all teams to be the ones to make a move like this. Following this trade, the Predators have $18,111,358 in cap space according to CapFriendly.com, with some significant pieces to re-sign, including Filip Forsberg, Luke Kunin, Yakov Trenin, and Nick Cousins. The team finished with a 45-30-7 record for ninety-seven points, barely beating out the Vegas Golden Knights for the eighth seed in the Western Conference and the right to play the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the 2022 playoffs. The Predators would get swept by the eventual champions in convincing fashion, as the Avalanche scored five or more goals in three of the four games. The Predators appeared, to us at least, to be a team on the verge of a rebuild, not adding more veteran pieces to make a cup run. What perplexes us the most about this deal, however, is that almost a calendar year ago, the Predators traded one of the franchises’ all-time best defensemen in Ryan Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers for Philippe Myers and Nolan Patrick. Ellis was making $6.25 million until the conclusion of the 2026-27 season, and at the time we thought this was a smart move by Predators GM David Poile to get out from under that contract.
With this trade, however, Poile gets an older defenseman (by two years), making about 500k more than Ellis, whose contract expires only a year before Ellis’ would. Like McDonagh, Ellis also never registered an individually negative AB season in his ten years of data and has a +6.83 career-AB score. Also, in the last four seasons (excluding 2021-22 due to Ellis’ early season-ending injury), Ryan Ellis has outscored Ryan McDonagh in three of those years (32-29 in 2017-18, 38-12 in 2019-20, and 18-12 in 2020-21). Again, we love Ryan McDonagh as a hockey player, however, we don’t see the logic behind this trade from a Predators perspective after seemingly being on the other side of this trade a short year ago. We will certainly be monitoring both Tampa Bay and Nashville ahead of the 2022 NHL Draft in Montreal later this week, as we are tremendously looking forward to seeing what other moves are in store for the hockey world during that period, much more to come.