The Tampa Bay Lightning have traded veteran defenseman Ryan McDonagh to the Nashville Predators in exchange for defenseman Philippe Myers and forward Grant Mismash, the franchise announced Sunday.
"He's one of the best defenders in the NHL, he's a selfless player and a great leader. I would like to thank him for everything he's done for us," Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois told reporters.
Tampa Bay's decision to move McDonagh was largely to clear cap space, as the 33-year-old is under contract for four more seasons with an average annual salary of $6.8 million.
If the Lightning buy out the remainder of Myers' contract, which has been speculated, they will have cleared more than $7.3 million in cap space, per Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff. However, BriseBois told reporters Sunday that they don't plan to buy out the veteran defenseman and that they like his "toolbox," per The Athletic's Joe Smith.
That said, the Bolts are still over the salary cap by $933,333, per CapFriendly, and will need to clear more cap space if they hope to re-sign unrestricted free agents Ondrej Palat and Jan Rutta this summer.
Tampa Bay is currently set to head into the 2022-23 season with a defense that includes Myers, Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev, Erik Cernak, Zach Bogosian and Cal Foote. While that's not a bad group, the loss of McDonagh is a tough blow to the unit.
McDonagh spent four-and-a-half seasons with the Lightning after being sent to Tampa Bay in a trade from the New York Rangers, with whom he began his career, in February 2018. He played a key role in each of Tampa Bay's Stanley Cup victories in 2020 and 2021 and the team's run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2022.
From 2020-22, the Minnesota native averaged 21:47 of ice time in 171 regular-season games, tallying nine goals and 41 assists for 50 points. He averaged 23:10 of ice time in 68 playoff games in that span, notching two goals and 16 assists for 18 points.
While McDonagh is undoubtedly past his prime, he still had a solid 2021-22 campaign, tallying four goals and 22 assists for 26 points in 71 games while averaging 22:27 of ice time, the highest he's averaged since the 2017-18 season.
McDonagh will now be tasked with helping anchor a Nashville defense alongside Norris Trophy finalist Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm. It's unclear which pairing he will play on, but Josi and Ekholm will probably be ahead of him on the depth chart.
Even with the trade for McDonagh, Nashville has $18.1 million in cap space, per CapFriendly. That gives the Predators more than enough room to re-sign star forward Filip Forsberg, in addition to some of their other free agents.
However, the Preds could use an upgrade on offense even if Forsberg returns, so it's possible the franchise will look into some of the top available forwards when free agency opens.
As for the Bolts, Myers will probably be one of their bottom pairing defensemen. He tallied one goal and three assists for four points in 27 games with the Preds last season and had an underwhelming three seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers before that, posting six goals and 23 assists for 29 points in 115 games.
Mismash spent the 2021-22 campaign with the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals, tallying six goals and 12 points in his rookie year. The 23-year-old will likely remain in the AHL for the 2022-23 season as Tampa Bay has plenty of offensive depth.