Ryan McDonagh a solid acquisition for Lightning

The acquisition of highly-regarded Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, right, helps solidify the Lightning for a run at the Stanley Cup. [Associated Press]
The acquisition of highly-regarded Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, right, helps solidify the Lightning for a run at the Stanley Cup. [Associated Press]
Published February 26 2018
Updated February 27 2018

TAMPA — It didn't sizzle. The Lightning didn't rock the hockey world by acquiring Erik Karlsson at Monday's trade deadline. There will be no Superteam.

But this one isn't so bad.

New York Rangers defenseman and captain Ryan McDonagh and forward J.T. Miller are joining the Lightning, in exchange for a talented Vladislav Namestnikov, two good prospects and a top draft pick and a conditional pick. McDonagh didn't come cheap. You have to give up some future to get to the now. That's where the Lightning is at the moment.

The Lightning back line is a lot deeper and better than it was Monday morning. The Lightning chances at winning the Stanley Cup seem more solid.

No, McDonagh isn't Karlsson, the best offensive defenseman in hockey. No, this isn't the stuff of Superteams. But McDonagh fits. And that might be everything at this point.

Grabbing McDonagh was the surer play by GM Steve Yzerman, who is officially stockpiling former Rangers, including Anton Stralman, Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi. And to think that Yzerman only had to trade Marty St. Louis once in all that time.

A Karlsson deal would have been a skyrocket, a headline maker.
They would have been throwing up police barricades for the Cup parade.

But the Lightning did not sit still. It couldn't. McDonagh's arrival was badly needed in the face of the pursuing Boston Bruins and Monday night's opponent, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Oh, and don't forget the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

Each of those teams made a move before the deadline. And now the Lightning has made one, too. McDonagh is a top-four defenseman, a two-way player, a gritty leader like Callahan.

What is it with former Rangers captains already?

This is your team, Lightning fans.

Did the prospect of Karlsson's mad offense put bubbles in our blood? Sure did. Did the idea of it take our breath away? Absolutely.

Look, the Lightning has the most points in the NHL. It has been out front all season. It might have the best skater (Nikita Kucherov) and goaltender (Andre Vasilevskiy) in the league. It was already going to contend for Stanley.

This franchise had the talent on the roster, and prospects, and draft picks, to chase down Karlsson's services. But Yzerman didn't operate out of fear or panic as Boston, Toronto and Pittsburgh made their moves. He wasn't going to trade Brayden Point or Mikhail Sergachev in the name of Karlsson.

McDonagh might be a righteous insurance policy. True, anything can happen. He could go down with an injury or someone else could. But remember 2004. The Lightning picked up defenseman Darryl Sydor well before the trade deadline. That didn't sizzle, either. But it worked out. Sydor and his Lightning teammates lifted the Cup in June.

Yes, I would have considered getting Karlsson, long and hard. Maybe Yzerman did. The Lightning made the Cup final in 2015 and the Eastern Conference final in 2016. I understand that this franchise's window is wide open, but it occurred to me: If not now, when? But Yzerman himself admitted the Lightning didn't go all in to chase the Cup.

Only the next few months will tell if the Lightning went far enough.

I thought the Lightning had a chance to win the Cup even before it picked up McDonagh. McDonagh doesn't guarantee anything. Karlsson wouldn't have guaranteed anything, either. Bobby Orr was not available.

You do what you can do. You balance the future with the now.

That's what Yzerman just did.

Is Ryan McDonagh the final piece for a Cup run?

We're about to find out.

This is your team, Lightning fans.

Contact Martin Fennelly at [email protected] or (813) 731-8029.

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