The Tampa Bay Lightning have won the McDonagh deal (so far)

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman presents the Tampa Bay Lightning with the Stanley Cup (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman presents the Tampa Bay Lightning with the Stanley Cup (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
new york rangers
Ryan McDonagh #27 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates with the Stanley Cup (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

When the New York Rangers traded Ryan McDonagh to Tampa it kicked off the debate about who got the better of the deal

The New York Rangers traded Ryan McDonagh to the Tampa Bay Lightning  on February 26, 2018.  For the Lightning, McDonagh was one of the final pieces they felt they needed to complete their Stanley Cup puzzle.  For the Blueshirts, it meant an infusion of young talent as they kicked off a massive rebuild.  With the Stanley Cup in the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning, that means they have won the deal, hands down.  But the final chapter has not been written.

What the Lightning got

Other than the Stanley Cup, Tampa ended up with McDonagh and  J.T. Miller.  They signed both players to big long term contracts.  McDonagh’s contract pays him an Average Annual Value (AAV) of $6.75 million and ends when he is 38 years old.  They gave Miller a five year, $26 million contract.

Although McDonagh had his worst offensive season this year, he has thrived in his role as shutdown defenseman, leaving the offense to Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev and Kevin Shattenkirk.  That has extended into the Stanley Cup Playoffs with McDonagh averaging almost 24 minutes of ice time per game.  Has McDonagh been crucial?  Absolutely.

The Lightning were forced to deal Miller to the Vancouver Canucks before this season to create cap space   Their return for Miller was minor league goalie Marek Mazanec along with a first round 2020 draft pick and a third round pick last year (Swedish goalie Hugo Alnefelt).

There was an impact this year as the Lightning flipped that first round pick  to New Jersey in the trade for Blake Coleman who has played a big part in Tampa’s drive to the Cup, scoring the key insurance goal in the Cup clinching game.

So, as a result of the deal with the Rangers, the Lightning ended up with two important elements of the team that won the Stanley Cup this season in McDonagh and Coleman as well as a goalie prospect.

What the Rangers got

The return for the Rangers hasn’t paid off yet.   In the deal they got one proven NHL player in Vladislav Namestnikov along with two prospects, Brett Howden and Libor Hajek.   They also acquired Tampa’s first round draft pick in the 2018 draft and a conditional 2019 draft pick.  The pick would be a first rounder if the Lightning won the Cup in 2018 or 2019 and when they didn’t the pick became a second rounder.

With the two draft picks, the Rangers selected Nils Lundkvist (#28) in 2018 and center Karl Henriksson  (#58) in 2019.  With Brett Howden a first round pick (#27 ) in 2016 and Libor Hajek a second round pick (#37) in 2016, it meant the Rangers ended up with Namestnikov along with two first round picks and two second round picks.

Namestnikov didn’t have much of an impact, playing 99 games over parts of three seasons in New York and scoring 13 goals and 35 points.  Although there was no denying his effort, he didn’t come close to his 20 goal production in Tampa where he played on a line with Steven Stamkos. At the beginning of this season, he was traded to Ottawa in a salary dump for the departed Nick Ebert and a fourth round draft pick in 2021.

Howden remains a project, going into his third season in New York.  While he has shown sparks, the jury is still out on whether he ever be anything more than a bottom six, defensive forward.  Hajek has had two stints in New York and ended last season in Hartford after suffering a knee injury.  The Blueshirts have hopes he will develop into a regular blueliner as he is still only 22, but he remains a candidate to be exposed in the Seattle expansion draft.

Henriksson is a top prospect playing for Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL).  Smaller in stature, the Rangers are watching his progress carefully and if he does well in a full season in Sweden’s best league, he’s a candidate for an Entry Level Contract (ELC) when the SHL season ends.

The Rangers’ best hope for turning this deal in their favor is prospect Nils Lundkvist who had a spectacular season in the SHL as a 19 year old.  Despite the shortened season, Lundkvist set a SHL scoring record for a player under 20 finishing with 11 goals and 31 points in 45 games and starring at the World Junior Championships.

The final verdict

Although we can proclaim as of today that the Lightning have won this deal, this is one of those trades that will take years before a true winner can be determined.  If the ultimate determining factor is  a Stanley Cup championship, the Tampa Bay Lightning have a huge advantage.

All four players acquired by the Rangers could become useful and productive NHL players,but if they don’t get the Holy Grail, this one goes into the loss column.

In the meantime, congratulations to Ryan McDonagh as well as Kevin Shattenkirk.  Ranger fans cannot begrudge them this championship, they deserve it.

Georgiev isn't going anywhere. light. More