TAMPA, Fla. – Julien BriseBois had to play the numbers game in determining Ryan McDonagh had to be dealt. After all, the salary cap era is all about the numbers, which makes the Lightning’s run to three straight Stanley Cup finals all the more remarkable.
On Sunday, the Lightning traded the veteran defenseman, leader, and pillar in the room to Nashville in return for defensemen Philippe Myers and forward Grant Mismash.
“It was not the most pleasant thing I had to do in my tenure as general manager,” said BriseBois, of a meeting last Wednesday with McDonagh in which the GM laid out the details and the defenseman agreed to waive his no-trade clause. “When considering each player’s age, position and contract, I came to the conclusion Ryan was the odd man out.”
The 33-year-old McDonagh, who the Lightning acquired from the Rangers along with JT Miller at the 2018 trade deadline, had four years remaining on a deal with a $6.75-million annual cap hit.
The trade frees up cap space to help toward potential deals with Ondrej Palat and Jan Rutta, both of whom can be unrestricted free agents when the league’s signing period begins next Wednesday. BriseBois has scheduled talks with the agents of both players.
The GM expressed interest in keeping Anthony Cirelli, Erik Cernak, and Mikhail Sergachev, each a potential unrestricted free agent next summer, in Lightning jerseys long term.
“We freed up some cap space for 2023-24 and beyond, which I am hopeful will allow us to secure the rights to Anthony Cirelli, Erik Cernak, and Mikhail Sergachev for years to come,” said BriseBois.
The 25-year-old Myers, who stands 6-foot-5 and has 142 games of NHL experience over four seasons with Philadelphia and Nashville, is a defenseman whose game BriseBois feels the Lightning can improve. Hence, he said that the final season of Myers’ contract, at $2.55-million, will not be bought out.
As for helping fill the void left by McDonagh, who logged an average of 22:27 this past season and had a team-best 137 blocked shots, the Lightning will look to a current member of the blue line corps.
“Sergachev will play bigger role,” said BriseBois, while not ruling out additional moves. “He is ready and ripe for those responsibilities.”
Mismash, a second-round pick of the Predators in 2017, has yet to make his NHL debut. The Minnesota native played four seasons at the University of North Dakota before making his professional debut this past season with Nashville’s American Hockey League affiliate in Milwaukee.
Nick Paul was an impressive addition to the Lightning after being acquired from Ottawa in March ahead of the trade deadline.
The team announced Friday that the 27-year-old forward, who could have been an unrestricted free agent this summer, agreed to a seven-year, $22-million deal.
“The culture of coming into the room and fitting in right away definitely made me feel like I wanted to be here for a long time,” said Paul. “I love the guys. I love the organization. Everything is top-notch.”
Paul’s diligence on the forecheck and the penalty kill was unmistakable. He also chipped in with five goals in 21 regular-season games after being acquired, and then five more goals during what was his first taste of NHL playoff action.
Also on Friday, former Lightning assistant Derek Lalonde was introduced as the Red Wings’ new coach. Lalonde joined Jon Cooper behind the Bolts’ bench in 2018-19, which was Steve Yzerman’s final season in Tampa after serving as the general manager for eight years and senior adviser in his final year. Yzerman has since been the GM in Detroit.