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Tampa Bay Lightning trade Ryan McDonagh, creating more cap space than you can imagine

Thank you for everything, Ryan!

2021 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five
TAMPA, FLORIDA - JULY 07: Ryan McDonagh #27 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates with the Stanley Cup following the victory over the Montreal Canadiens in Game Five of the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Amalie Arena on July 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. The Lightning defeated the Canadiens 1-0 to take the series four games to one.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning have traded veteran defenseman Ryan McDonagh to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Philippe Myers and AHLer Grant Mismash. This is a move made to create cap space in two ways, and reallocate money away from the defense in order to invest in the Lightning’s declining offense from last season.

McDonagh played 267 games for the Lightning across five seasons, with an additional 89 playoff games. He averaged 22 minutes a night for the team (23 per night in the playoffs), including 3 shorthanded minutes per game, wracking up a total of 99 points. McDonagh leaves a massive hole in the Lightning’s lineup as a steady, reliable, gutsy, veteran presence that has helped young defenders like Cernak, Sergachev, and Foote grow in the time he’s been here. A leader of the team that will sorely be missed.

Philippe Myers won’t play a game for the Lightning, I’ll explain why below.

Grant Mismash is a 23-year-old left winger who was taken in the second round by Washington in 2017. He played his first season out of the NCAA in Milwaukee last season, scoring 6 goals and 12 points 57 games. He was projected as a bottom of the lineup-type grinder when he was drafted and that’s where he’s currently heading towards. He fits the Lightning’s style dating back to Ross Colton and Yanni Gourde, but it’s unclear what his ceiling will be. For now, expect him with the Syracuse Crunch.

How the Lightning Created Cap Space pt. 1

Right off the bat, the Tampa Bay Lightning cleared $6.75 million from their payroll for next season. A big sum, especially since the 33-year-old McDonagh was going to carry that for another four years.

How the Lightning Created Cap Space pt. 2

Philippe Myers will may get bought out by the Lightning for the final year of his deal, and because his salary is so much higher than his cap hit, the Lightning will actually earn a cap credit in the form of ~$620k for next season. There will be a charge of ~$630k in 2024, but that’s it.

This type of buyout situation has come about in the past when the Leafs bought out Jared Cowan. They couldn’t find a taker for his cap credit in a year when they were tanking, so they bought him out themselves and the credit was essentially useless. The Bolts will find a lot of use in this cap credit — it almost gives them a full roster spot of cap space so they can keep more than 20 skaters on the roster next year.

I think it would be a mistake not to buy out Myers. He has some abilities, but he hasn’t been able to put it all together in the NHL. It’s a risky bet if they think he can play 1RD. Myer’s trade value was his cap credit, so part of McDonagh’s trade value went into acquiring that.

If the Lightning wanted to have him, they could’ve waiting until he was bought out by someone else and then signed him then. Right now, Myers is a significantly overpaid player. Other players with a comparable contract to him are Jake Bean, Erik Cernak (hey!), Ryan Lindgren, and Ethan Bear. Myers has not shown the ability to be in that realm.

The Cost - McDonagh the Player

The Lightning are giving away McDonagh for free when it comes to the lineup on the ice. They will be able to make up that loss in signing players (like Nick Paul and Ondřej Palat, hopefully), but for the trade itself, this was a case of giving away a still-good second pair defenseman for cap space.

This certainly means now that Mikhail Sergachev will permanently move into the top-four next to Erik Cernak, while Victor Hedman will likely remain with Jan Rutta — whom the team have prioritized re-signing.

This now opens a spot on the third pair, presumably next to Zach Bogosian. The Lightning will need a penalty killer to help account for the loss of McDonagh and someone whom they can be a reliable backup behind Sergachev and Hedman in case of injuries.

I’m just throwing this out there, but there have been talks about an offer sheet for Toronto’s Rasmus Sandin. With the cap savings, he would be a perfect fit, and already has experience next to Bogosian in a system similar to the Lightning.

Cap Space Update

Working on CapFriendly’s Armchair GM tool, after the buyout to Myers and sending Alex Barre-Boulet down to make lineup space, the Lightning have $9.8 million to bring in a forward (Palat, or potentially someone else now), re-sign Rutta, and bring in a third pair left defender.

With this much money now freed up, the Lightning can do a lot better than ABB and Cal Foote at those positions, and they should do better.

The Roster as Things Stand


____________ - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos
Brandon Hagel - Nick Paul - Ross Colton
Pat Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Corey Perry


Victor Hedman - ______________
Mikhail Sergachev - Erik Cernak
_____________ - Zach Bogosian
Cal Foote


Andrei Vasilevskiy
Brian Elliott

LTIR: Brent Seabrook

Cap Space: $9,866,666

RFAs: Otto Somppi, Odeen Tufto, Alex Green, Tye Felhaber, Alexei Melnychuk

UFAs: Ondřej Palat, Jan Rutta, Riley Nash, Fredrik Claesson, Maxime Lagace, Remi Elie, Charles Hudon, Anthony Richard