Lightning cut salary, send McDonagh to Predators

NHL News

The Tampa Bay Lightning traded veteran defenseman Ryan McDonagh to the Nashville Predators on Sunday to clear space under the NHL salary cap.

The Predators sent defenseman Philippe Myers and forward Grant Mismash to the Lightning for the 33-year-old McDonagh, who waived his no-trade clause to make the deal happen. McDonagh has four more seasons on his contract with a $6.75 million average annual value.

“If we didn’t live in a flat salary-cap world, it would never have crossed my mind to ask Ryan McDonagh to waive his no-trade clause because I would’ve been ecstatic to know that I had him under contract for four more years,” Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois said Sunday.

BriseBois met with McDonagh face-to-face Wednesday regarding the decision.

“Not the most pleasant thing I’ve had to do in my tenure as general manager, but I’m sure it was even more uncomfortable for him because I know he didn’t want to leave the Lightning,” BriseBois said.

McDonagh played 71 games this season and tallied 26 points. He averaged 17:50 in ice time at 5-on-5 this season, which was his highest rate since 2013-14 with the New York Rangers (17:56). His 1.04 points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 was his highest rate since 2018-19 (1.46).

McDonagh spent four-plus seasons with the Lightning after being traded to Tampa Bay by the Rangers in February 2018. He was an integral part of their back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, anchoring a second defensive pairing behind star Victor Hedman.

But after losing to the Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Final, the Lightning engaged in conversations with McDonagh about waiving his trade protection, as they were desperate to create salary-cap flexibility — potentially to re-sign longtime winger and playoff hero Ondrej Palat, who is an unrestricted free agent.

“It gives us the flexibility to potentially re-sign Palat or [defenseman Jan] Rutta or address holes that need to be filled on the free-agent market or the trade market,” BriseBois said. “Or those holes could be filled organically from within our organization.

“I think it allows us to make sure we can make sure we extend it beyond one season. We’ve freed up some cap space for this year, 2022-23, but more importantly we freed up some cap space for 2023-24 and beyond, which I hope will allow us to secure the rights to Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak for years to come.”

Myers was acquired by the Predators in last summer’s Ryan Ellis trade with the Philadelphia Flyers. He played 27 games with Nashville last season, averaging 14:52 in ice time. According to Cap Friendly, buying out the remaining year of Myers’ deal would give the Lightning a $616,666 cap credit for next season and $633,334 in dead cap space in the 2023-24 season.

However, BriseBois said the plan is to work with Myers, who has one season at $2.55 million against the cap before restricted free agency.

“We’ve liked him going back to his junior days. We really like the toolbox. We liked him in Philly. For whatever reason, things didn’t work out for him at the tail end in Philly and in Nashville last season,” BriseBois said. “He’s only 25 years old. He’s a 6-foot-5 defensemen with size and some physicality. He’s a quality skater. Can improve his skating; in the past, we’ve been able to work with players and make them better skaters. He has a huge shot. We figure there are enough tools there that intrigue us enough to work with him and help him reach the potential we saw not too much long ago.”

Mismash, 23, skated in 57 games in 2021-22 for the Milwaukee Admirals, Nashville’s AHL affiliate, and tallied six goals and 12 points in his rookie season. He is a product of the University of North Dakota.

McDonagh gives the Predators three defensemen with a cap hit over $6 million: Roman Josi ($9.059M), McDonagh ($6.75M) and Mattias Ekholm ($6.25M), all of them signed through 2026. According to Cap Friendly, they have 18 players under contract and just over $18 million in cap space. Forward Filip Forsberg, one of their leading scorers, remains unsigned ahead of unrestricted free agency.

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