Lightning trade with Predators to bring veteran defenseman Ryan McDonagh back to Tampa Bay

Ryan McDonagh is returning to Tampa Bay, hoping to help the Lightning win the Stanley Cup again after two seasons in Nashville.

The Predators traded McDonagh back to the Lightning on Tuesday, giving the veteran defenseman a welcome homecoming with the organization he helped to two championships and clearing some salary cap space to add and make changes this offseason.

Tampa Bay reacquired McDonagh less than 22 months after sending him to Nashville as a money move, this time sending a 2025 second-round pick and a 2024 seventh-rounder to the Predators for the soon-to-be 35-year-old and Edmonton's fourth-round pick this summer.

“Quite honestly, I didn’t really see a scenario of me being back in Tampa while on this contract I’m on, so I guess when I was informed of an opportunity it was hard not to be excited about it,” McDonagh said on a video call with reporters. “There’s a handful of guys on that team still that are proven winners. That core group is a special group, and to be back with them, it’s hard not to make you believe again that something special can be done once more.”

McDonagh played a key role on the Lightning's Cup runs in 2020 and ‘21 and their trip to the final in ’22. They have not won a playoff series since, losing in the first round to Toronto and Florida each of the past two years.

Reuniting with McDonagh gives Tampa Bay a top four that also includes '20 playoff MVP Victor Hedman, Erik Cernak and Mikhail Sergachev, who missed several months with a broken leg before making a surprise return in the first round.

“Their wanting to bring me back, it says a lot,” said McDonagh, who has played 928 regular-season games with the New York Rangers, Lightning and Predators and now could hit the 1,000 milestone in a Bolts uniform. “Hopefully it shows the group, the guys there that management is trying to do what they can to improve and keep making the team the best they can.”

Coming off a first-round exit themselves, the Predators now have some more freedom with McDonagh's $6.75 million cap hit in each of the next two seasons off the books. General manager Barry Trotz said McDonagh asked him to explore the possibility of getting him back to Florida's Gulf coast, and the former coach wanted to do the right thing while also helping his team.

“This trade ... allows us to continue to make tweaks and improvements to our team during the offseason,” Trotz said. "We want to make decisions that help us build on the success we had in the 2023-24 season by giving us as many weapons as we can get, whether it’s younger players on our roster, more impactful draft choices or salary cap flexibility.”

Cap flexibility is not something Tampa Bay has had a lot of lately, hence trading McDonagh away in the first place, but there's still the matter of figuring out what will happen with captain and longtime face of the franchise Steven Stamkos, a pending free agent. Stamkos and GM Julien BriseBois have expressed a desire to get a new contract done, but until that happens it's the biggest question facing the organization.

“I can’t say enough great things about him and the importance of bringing him back,” McDonagh said. “Hopefully they can find a way to make that happen and we can keep building special memories here in Tampa together.”

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AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed.

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

05/21/2024 22:14 -0400

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