New York Rangers: Regretting the McDonagh-Miller to Tampa Bay Trade

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 19: Carter Hart #79 of the Philadelphia Flyers makes the third period save on Libor Hajek #43 of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on September 19, 2018 in New York City. The Flyers defeated the Rangers 6-4. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 19: Carter Hart #79 of the Philadelphia Flyers makes the third period save on Libor Hajek #43 of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on September 19, 2018 in New York City. The Flyers defeated the Rangers 6-4. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

When the New York Rangers traded Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller to Tampa Bay, it was the biggest sign of a rebuild yet. Almost a year later, the Rangers may be regretting pulling the trigger so fast.

Last March, the New York Rangers committed to their rebuild by trading Ryan McDonagh to the Tampa Bay Lightning. What came as a surprise to many was the inclusion of J.T. Miller in the deal as well. A blockbuster trade of epic proportions was expected with a giant return for two of the Rangers best players.

Instead, the Rangers only ended up with Vladislav Namestnikov, Brett Howden, Libor Hajek, a first round pick and a second round pick that could become a first rounder if Tampa wins the Stanley Cup. While that may seem like a lot in quantity, much of that return was underwhelming at the time, and continues to be at present.

Of course, much is still unknown until these younger players develop further, but it cannot be helped to think about what could have been. Should the Rangers have received more? Should they have made this trade when they did?

Let’s expand on this and see where this trade stands in the grand scheme of things.

Examining the Trade

The Tampa Bay Lightning received Ryan McDonagh, the Rangers top defenseman and captain, as well as forward J.T. Miller in this deal. At the time of the trade, McDonagh had 26 points in 49 games, and Miller had 40 points in 63 games.

Tampa Bay has a deep prospect pool with many players to choose from. The Rangers were very high on defenseman Libor Hajek and were intent on receiving him as one of those prospects. So far, Hajek’s season with Hartford has been rather disappointing. He has recorded just four assists in 42 games, and while he is not a defenseman known for his offense first, that does not bode well for an NHL future.

The biggest piece the Rangers received was Brett Howden. After a hot start in the month of October where Brett Howden recorded 12 points in his first 20 games for the Rangers, that scoring dried up. He has not scored a goal since November 12, and has just three points in his last 25 games. Of course, he is a rookie, and young players’ developments are often all over the place, but his future role on this team is still a mystery.

The Rangers also received Vladislav Namestnikov in the deal. Namestnikov had 44 points in 62 games when the trade happened, however he had been playing most of the year with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. Miller recorded just four points less than Namestnikov playing with a carousel of mediocre linemates, proving even from trade day that Miller was the obvious better player.

So far, as a Ranger, Namestnikov has recorded just six goals and 20 points in 63 games from the trade deadline of last season to today. J.T. Miller, on the other hand, has 45 points in that same span, including 17 goals. If those two NHL forwards can be considered swapped in that deal, the Rangers lost badly.

Win or Lose?

While the trade may not be considered a total bomb yet, the Rangers do appear to be on the losing side of things with this trade. Namestnikov’s poor play coupled with Hajek’s underwhelming season creates some concern, for sure. One wild card in this deal was that first round pick, which became Nils Lundkvist. A strong development from him could change the tide of this deal.  The potential first round pick could be a bonus, but if the Lightning don’t win the Cup, that pick will be in the high 50’s.

However, it simply boils down to the fact that the Rangers got a lot of quantity but not as much quality as they needed to go after. The Tampa Bay Lightning have several prospects that the Rangers would have been better off targeting, like Taylor Raddysh, Mathieu Joseph, Anthony Cirelli or Cal Foote. The inclusion of J.T. Miller in the deal even lead some to believe Mikhail Sergachev might be in play.

The other wrinkle is that there really wasn’t any rush to commit to a McDonagh trade at that particular time. The Rangers had McDonagh for another year and, while he may have been slightly more valuable with that extra year for Tampa, they did not have to deal him right away. The Rangers moved him as if they would not have that opportunity again, but holding steady and trying to move McDonagh at the draft, over the summer, or the deadline of 2019 while waiting for a better deal likely would have been a better idea.

dark. Next. The Zuccarello trade talk heats up

In the end, the Rangers victimized themselves with this trade by pulling the trigger too quickly. Had they waited for a better trade opportunity, the poor quality of this trade would not be a topic of discussion. There is time for things to turn around, but even if they do, it does not appear the Rangers got enough for two of the biggest staples on their roster for many years. Patience is key, and the New York Rangers simply did not practice it well enough.