The New York Rangers made a big move to bolster their blue-line this week by signing defenseman Ryan McDonagh to a professional contract despite the fact that McDonagh had previously made it known that he would return to the University of Wisconsin instead of turning pro and joining the Rangers.
McDonagh was taken by the Montreal Canadiens in the first round, No. 12 overall, in the 2007 draft. The Rangers acquired him along with winger Chris Higgins a year ago in a deal that sent Scott Gomez to Montreal. At the time the deal was largely a salary dump designed to clear space for the signing of Marian Gaborik, but now that McDonagh has signed that trade is a real big coup for the Rangers.
McDonagh, 21, is listed at 6′1″ and 218 lbs., and is a solid all-around defenseman who is more regarded as a shut-down defenseman rather than an offensive defenseman. He is said to have solid speed though which gives him solid offensive skill as well.
It was previously thought that McDonagh would return to college and the Rangers would lose the rights to him, but he went to prospect camp last week and obviously the Rangers made a good impression on him.
“The camp was important for a lot of reasons,” McDonagh said . “First and foremost, I got to meet some of the Rangers staff members face to face and to have them meet me as well. Second, I got to know some of the other players in the organization. I thought it was important to build some relationships with them during a tough week of camp and getting to know them. The third thing was more for myself. I know the pro game is different from the college game, and I wanted to see if I was physically ready and mentally ready and everything like that.
“The camp went really well, and it got better every day,” said McDonagh. “I just felt great after the camp and felt like this was definitely a spot for me. And they felt the same way as well. It worked great. It was perfect.”
Helping the Rangers case was the fact that McDonagh’s friend and teammate at Wisconsin center Derek Stepan also signed a professional deal with the Rangers just a few weeks ago.
When outlining his plans for the upcoming season with Larry Brooks of the NY Post a few weeks ago, president and GM of the Rangers Glen Sather listed both McDonagh and Stepan as players he would like to see compete for roster spots next year. McDonagh certainly could break camp with the Rangers, but Stepan is likely to need at least one season with the Hartford Wolfpack before taking the step to the NHL.
McDonagh comes with a cap hit of $1.3 million. His yearly salary is just $875,000 a year, but he is also earning a yearly $425,000 bonus on top of the $87,500 he’s already gotten as a signing bonus.