It’s official. The Tampa Bay Lightning missed out on Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, but got the consolation prize on the trade market. The Lightning have acquired Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller from the New York Rangers in exchange for as yet to be reported assets. We will update as details emerge.
[3:43 pm EST Update] We have learned the rest of the trade according to Bob McKenzie.
I’m hearing TB sending to NYR: Libor Hajek, Brett Holden, Vladislav Nemestnikov, 2018 1st round pick, conditional second round pick. Confirmation to follow.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 26, 2018
[5:58 pm EST Update] McDonagh looks to be ready to suit up for the Lightning in about a week’s time.
McDonagh said he’s 5 to 7 days away from being ready to play. Nursing an upper-body injury. Said he’s been skating for 7 or 8 days. #Bolts— Bryan Burns (@BBurnsNHL) February 26, 2018
In McDonagh, the Lightning pick up a proven, left-handed top-four defenseman with an additional year left on his contract with a salary cap hit of $4.7 million. While some of his numbers defensively look a little scary, it’s also important to note that the Rangers have not been a very good defensive team. Additionally, McDonagh won’t have to take on the top lines every night as that will fall to Victor Hedman on the first pair.
Ryan McDonagh is a first-liner by production, defensive usage, defends poorly on a poor-defence team. pic.twitter.com/oWe05YGvoB— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) February 26, 2018
The Lightning also add more leadership to the locker room as McDonagh was the Captain of the University of Wisconsin during his senior season and has spent the past four seasons as the Captain of the Rangers. McDonagh brings a career 516 games of NHL experience with 238 points and a further 41 points in 96 playoff games. He has played in four Eastern Conference Finals series and one Stanley Cup Finals.
J.T. Miller is a 24-year-old center/left winger that should be a big boost for the Lightning’s third line. He can also chip in on the second power play unit, but does most of his scoring at even strength. He scored 22 goals in each of the past two seasons with 43 points and 56 points. So far this season, Miller has put up 13 goals and 40 points. Miller currently has a salary cap hit of $2.7 million and will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
JT Miller is a third-liner with some power-play strength. pic.twitter.com/TDpAUKoENT— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) February 26, 2018
As far as what the Lightning are giving up in the deal...
Vladislav Namestnikov is obviously a big blow for this team. He’s been having a breakout year with 20 goals and 44 points in 62 games played. However, he was set to be a restricted free agent this summer. Even back to last summer, I was speculating that he could end up being the odd-man out when it came time to give him a raise in July. Instead, Yzerman has traded him at perhaps the point when his value was the highest.
Libor Hajek was a second round pick of the Lightning in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Projected as a two-way, top-four defenseman, the Lightning traded Anthony DeAngelo to the Arizona Coyotes for the second round pick used to take Hajek. He was set to become a full-time profession next season in the AHL. With Hedman and Sergachev locked in on the left side, Hajek was less likely to reach his full potential here with the Lightning.
Center Brett Howden was a first round pick of the Lightning in the 2016 NHL entry draft. A center with size and offensive skills, he was projected to turn into a second line two-way center. Losing Howden is a bit of a blow as size at center is something the Lightning lack on the farm. However, they can withstand the blow as long as Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos continue to anchor the top two lines for the next five plus years.
As for the two draft picks included, the Lightning are very likely to be selecting towards the end of the first round in 2018 and quite possibly in 2019 as well. The 2019 draft pick is a conditional second round pick that becomes a first round pick if the Lightning win the Stanley Cup in one of the next two seasons. If the Lightning can raise the Cup some time over the next two seasons, that’s not too bad of a price tag for a Championship.
Draft picks in NYR/TB deal. There is a first in 2018 and a second-rounder that becomes a first if TB wins the Stanley Cup this year or next— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) February 26, 2018
With this trade, the Lightning have given up a significant roster player and two very good prospects. With that said, the Lightning have a very strong pipeline and avoided giving up Brayden Point or Mikhail Sergachev. They also hung on to right-handed defenseman Cal Foote who should be a big part of the Lightning’s future when he develops into a top-four NHL talent that can provide a steady presence next to Hedman or Sergachev.
With the addition of McDonagh, the Lightning will be able to further shift Sergachev down the line-up and reduce his time on ice while still maintaining his presence on the second power play unit. Braydon Coburn spent most of his career with the Philadelphia Flyers playing on the right side as a left-hander and can shift back to the right side again. This means that Andrej Sustr, Slater Koekkoek, and Jake Dotchin will be seeing a lot of the press box, unless Jon Cooper decides to run seven defensemen for the rest of the season.
If I had to take a stab right now at what the lines and pairings will look like, here you go.
Yanni Gourde - Steven Stamkos - Tyler Johnson
Alex Killorn - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Cory Conacher - J.T. Miller - Adam Erne
Chris Kunitz - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan
Victor Hedman - Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh - Anton Stralman
Mikhail Sergachev - Braydon Coburn
When Ondrej Palat returns from injury, he could take Killorn’s spot on the second line, with Killorn sliding down to the third line and likely sending Conacher to the press box.