Predators land McDonagh, Lightning earns salary cap margin

The Tampa Bay Lightning may no longer be the defending Stanley Cup champion, but they’re still mastering salary cap management. The Lightning traded Ryan McDonagh to the Predators in a move that opens up significant salary cap space for Tampa Bay.

Predators receive: Ryan McDonagh, 33, $6.75 million cap hit through 2025-26.

Lightning receives: Philippe Myers, 25, and Grant Mismash.

Myers is believed to have $2.55 million on the cap. Still, due to some salary cap quirks, a buyout could to add to the Lightning salary cap savings in the McDonagh trade.

And then, maybe not? Chris Johnston reports the Lightning could keep Myers:

Lightning removes the band-aid to open up a salary cap space

The McDonagh trade is a big chunk in the Lightning handling another tough offseason of salary cap/free agent issues. Recently, the Lightning signed a rather surprisingly long contract with Nicholas Paul.

It remains to be seen if the Lightning have opened up enough salary cap space to retain free agent Ondrej Palat.

In reality, though, the salary cap savings could be even more important to the Lightning’s longer-term prospects.

Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak, key members of the mid-prime core, all need new contracts (and probably big raises) after next season. Given the length of McDonagh’s contract, this creates potentially essential breathing room.

Of course, the Lightning will miss Ryan McDonagh. During their bid for a “three-round” Stanley Cup, McDonagh led all Lightning players in even-strength (19:12) and shorthanded (3:07) playoff ice time. These are difficult minutes to replace.

But, when you’re a team in contention, you just have to make those kinds of calls.

The McDonagh trade from the Predators’ perspective

Honestly, at first glance, I hated the McDonagh trade for the Predators.

Yes, the 33-year-old has been terrific, sometimes ranking among the most underrated defensemen in the NHL. Still, it’s hard to shake off the feeling that it’s on a troubling downtrend.

Although there’s no shame in that (Father Time beats pretty much everyone, even Jaromir Jagr [allegedly]), the Predators now assume that risk. Years of wear and tear from deep runs with both Rangers and Lightning can’t help matters.

Interestingly, different metrics are at least a bit friendlier or tougher on McDonagh. For example, McDonagh’s three-year-old player card from Evolving Hockey doesn’t look promising.

Still, J Fresh’s dive into micro stats and different versions of metrics inspires at least a little more optimism.

Still, it’s hard to shake off the idea that the Predators are heading into truly risky times.

As incredible as Roman Josi was last season, he is already 32 years old. Mattias Ekholm has 32 too. They’re a fairly old trio of defensemen, combining nearly $22 million in cap space and plenty of tenure.

Forsberg’s situation still important for Nashville

If the Predators keep Filip Forsberg, much of what looked like sneaky, promising cap space (Cap Friendly currently projects them at around $18.11 million with a few spots to fill) will be gone. If not…why would you invest in McDonagh?

How promising are the 2021-22 Predators if you add McDonagh, but everyone gets a year older? If the Predators find themselves clearly in playoff contention, then McDonagh is the kind of defenseman who can greatly help you in those situations. Otherwise, general manager David Poile has added another aging player to an expensive roster that looks quite old.

Also: Even though the Lightning cling to Myers, it’s also arguable that Nashville should have gotten more in a trade for his unusual contract.

Time will tell if the Predators will be happy with the McDonagh trade, but it’s a tidy (if painful) deal by the Lightning. Especially if they actually wield that Myers buyout.

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