Three days after the end of the season, Ryan McDonagh was called into the office of Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois early Wednesday morning.
McDonagh, 33, was unsure what to expect but had planned to catch a flight later in the day with his wife and two children to spend time at their Lake Wisconsin cabin. He had played with a “mauled” finger in the last round and a half of the playoffs, which ended in a loss to Colorado in the Stanley Cup Finals, so he was eager to rest.
What happened next surprised not only McDonagh, but much of the hockey world as well.
BriseBois told McDonagh that given Tampa Bay’s salary cap situation going forward, he was going to be the odd man out, who they hoped would work with the team to waive his no-show clause. complete exchange. The Lightning obviously wanted dungeon McDonagh, whom BriseBois calls one of the best defensemen in the league, but now they were asking him to spend the last four years of his contract elsewhere.
McDonagh’s agent, Ben Hankinson, said McDonagh left his meeting with BriseBois with a “spinning head”, and it took him a few days to deal with it. McDonagh, 33, was officially traded Sunday afternoon to the Predators for defenseman Philippe Myers and minor league forward Grant Mishmash.
“It’s tough,” Hankinson said Athleticism. “He’s been there for four years, won a few cups, been in the final three years in a row. All of a sudden being told ‘You’re not coming back, it’s a business decision, we can’t make you come back’, he’s having a hard time accepting that. There’s the emotional connection and the business side. It took what felt like forever, only three or four days, but they wanted to move on. He heard about every member of (the Lightning team). Crush.”
“McDonagh is a special guy,” Alex Killorn said Sunday in a text message to Athleticism. “Obviously, as a player, he’s one of the toughest guys to play against in the NHL. To think of how he put his body on the line for his teammates is admirable. Blocking shots etc, but what stands out the most is his utter selflessness and leadership. He cared so much about the team. He wasn’t the most talkative guy but when he spoke, the guys listened. It’s going to be hard to fill that spot. The older guys in the team are very close to him so it’s hard to see him go.
What the Lightning have really gained in trade is cap space, at least $4.6 million this summer (since they don’t plan to buy out Myers), but $6.75 million in the over the next three years, according to CapFriendly. And that will be crucial as BriseBois said the Lightning plan to re-sign Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak, who are RFAs with arbitration rights in 2023, along with Ross Colton and Cal Foote. BriseBois said McDonagh had just become the “strange man”. Savings this year could help Tampa Bay re-sign Ondrej Palat and Jan Rutta, although that’s not a guarantee.
McDonagh, the anchor of Tampa Bay’s closed defensive pair for the past four seasons, is leaving a hole on the ice and in the locker room. The Lightning simply wouldn’t have won back-to-back championships without him.
“If we weren’t living in a fixed salary cap world, it would never have crossed my mind to ask Ryan McDonagh to waive his non-trade,” BriseBois said on a conference call Sunday. “Because I would have been delighted to know that I had him under contract for four more years.”
McDonagh received BriseBois’ request on Wednesday, but it was not an automatic yes to agree to leave. He had to think about it. He had his own “team” to consider. There’s his wife, Kaylee, their 5-year-old daughter, Falan, and their 3-year-old son, Murphy. They loved their life in Davis Islands, Florida, living near teammates and good friends like Pat Maroon, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Alex Killorn. McDonagh was an integral part of the team’s leadership group, a guy everyone looked up to.
“I think it took a few days to figure out what to do,” Hankinson said. “Do you fight and find a way to stay? Which he wanted to do. But, realistically, that didn’t happen. And it’s not always by player choice. The good news , is that Ryan is motivated and in a good position at the moment. It was not his choice. But given the circumstances, we have found a good place.
Hankinson, with his family at their cabin in Minnesota, said the previous three or four days had involved many hours going through different scenarios. There were plenty of teams interested, but the questions were about which ones could fit in his $6.75 million AAV and how fast. Some teams that could weren’t necessarily in contention. McDonagh went to bed Saturday night not knowing where he would end up or whether a deal would be reached on Sunday.
But the Predators have stepped up and McDonagh is heading to Nashville, which made the playoffs last year but lost to eventual champion Avalanche.
“His body was going through things that seemed out of the realm of hockey and he kept going. I’m like, ‘Holy shit.’ “
With Ryan McDonagh breaking the career postseason blocked shots record, we’ve collected the craziest stories about @TBLightning d-man – aka “Mac Truck” https://t.co/XsX5lA1fz4 pic.twitter.com/K3eehuQtT5
— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) May 19, 2022
For the Lightning, that means Sergachev should get an expanded role, just behind Victor Hedman on the left side of the blue line. Sergachev has become a two-way force but will need to continue to work on his consistency as he plays more stoppage minutes. Foote looks set for a more regular role, and there’s a chance that Rutta will return, although BriseBois have given the impression that they could take care of their defense this offseason, either on the outside or inside. They could have bought out Myers and saved about $7.5 million in that deal (up from $6.75 million), but right now their savings will be $5.62 million if his contract is buried in the minors. , or $4.2 million if not buried.
“Our plan at this point is to work with Myers,” BriseBois said. “We liked that he returned to his junior days. We really like his toolkit. We love him as a player. He’s only 25, 6-foot-5, with a certain height, a certain speed. We will work to improve his skating. He has a huge shot. I think there are enough things that intrigue us enough to work with him.
BriseBois can work on possible extensions with Cirelli, Cernak and Sergachev, and also have flexibility for Colton and Foote in the future. He believes the trade helps extend the Lightning’s championship window beyond this season. But that didn’t make it any easier to have that conversation with McDonagh on Wednesday and execute that trade and say goodbye to one of his best players.
“I wanted to do it in person, explain to him why I made this decision and come to this conclusion,” BriseBois said. “It’s not the most pleasant thing I’ve had to do in my mandate. It was even more uncomfortable for him because I knew he didn’t want to leave the Lightning.
(Photo by Ryan McDonagh: Kim Klement/USA Today)