Lightning clears the cap space by trading McDonagh for Predators

Julien BriseBois wanted to explain his plan in person to Ryan McDonagh and explain exactly why he asked the veteran defender to waive his no-trade clause.

After one of the toughest conversations in his tenure as general manager, BriseBois took arguably his toughest step yet in Tampa Bay Lightning’s string of success by swapping a prominent member of two Stanley Cup championship teams in a bid to make it the next year to win again.

The Lightning sent McDonagh to the Nashville Predators on Sunday for younger defender Philippe Myers and future prospect Grant Mismash, freeing up a substantial salary cap to make more moves this off-season and founding Tampa Bay to retain younger core players for the long term.

Having previously predicted his team’s cup window wouldn’t last until next season, BriseBois’ move McDonagh has changed the game for the NHL’s most successful franchise in the past five years.

“It allows us to ensure that we can extend it beyond one season,” BriseBois said. “We’ve cleared some cap space for this year, 2022-23, but more importantly, we’ve cleared some cap space for 2023-24 and beyond, which I hope will allow us to get the rights to Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergechev and Erik Cernak for years to come.”

The immediate aftermath of swapping McDonagh’s $6.75 million cap hit for Myers’ $2.55 million could allow the Eastern Conference champions to take the top left and playoff star Ondrej Palat and/or reliable defender Jan Rutta, all of whom would be free agents when the market opens on July 13.

BriseBois had no update on either situation, but acknowledged McDonagh’s move opens the door to more possibilities. He plans to talk to Palat and Rutta’s agents in the next few days.

Those should be better discussions than talking to McDonagh about why he should prioritize other players for the future and hoped to find a trading partner for the 33-year-old, who finished the playoffs and helped Tampa Bay to a third consecutive final by playing with a mangled finger. Most of all, McDonagh was known for sacrificing his body to block shots while also locking up his opponents’ top stars.

“He’s one of the best defenders in the NHL – he’s a selfless player and a great leader,” said BriseBois. “Ryan McDonagh is a great human being and a great hockey player, he won a lot and he helped us win a lot.”

BriseBois said if the salary cap was expected to rise further, he would never have considered asking McDonagh to lift his no-trade clause and would have been happy to have him under contract for another four seasons.

The Predators now get those years and another seasoned player on the Blue Line who has made it to the playoffs in each of his 12 NHL seasons. In a statement from the team, general manager David Poile called McDonagh “the ultimate team player who will bring experience and leadership” and someone who can play in all situations.

“It’s been five incredible years,” McDonagh said of his time at Tampa Bay. “I’m looking forward to using all the experience I’ve had on the losing and the winning side to hopefully do something special with the Nashville group.”

Myers has now been made consecutive offseason after moving from Philadelphia to Nashville last summer in the deal that sent defender Ryan Ellis to the Flyers. The 25-year-old will be Tampa Bay’s latest value rehabilitation project after struggling so much last season that the Predators put him on waivers and loaned him to Toronto’s top minor league affiliate.

BriseBois said the plan was to work with Myers rather than buy out the last year of his contract.

“For whatever reason, things didn’t go well for him last season in Philadelphia and Nashville,” he said. “We think there are plenty of tools out there that intrigue us enough to work with him and help him reach the potential we saw not too long ago.”

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