Saturday night on Hockey Night in Canada, NHL insider Elliotte Friedman suggested the Boston Bruins may be interested in New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh.
Friedman: “Ryan McDonagh, I mean he’s one of the biggest names on the market right now. A lot of teams are looking at Boston and saying, A: they can do it, we mentioned Tampa and B: there may be a fit on the left side of their defense.”
The Ranger’s captain is 28 and has one more year left on his contract at a cap hit of $4.7 million dollars. He does have a modified no trade clause of ten teams he won’t accept a trade to, but it’s probably fair to assume the Bruins are not one of them given their success. Obviously the trade makes more sense if the Bruins know or believe McDonagh will sign an extension with the Black and Gold but he’s still quite valuable as a 1.5 year “rental” as well
A Player Worth Acquiring?
The question for the Bruins is what would it cost to acquire McDonagh, a legit number one type defenseman and arguably the Rangers best player after Henrik Lundqvist. For background, he has received Norris Trophy votes in 5 of his 8 career seasons, has never been a negative +/- player and has twice scored over 40 points as a blue liner. He is one of the best defensemen in the league, on an affordable contract and under thirty years old. To be frank, he is likely the Rangers biggest opportunity to jump start their rebuild with picks, prospects or young talented NHLers coming back in a trade. Here’s what our Rangers sister site wrote on an expected return. Summarized, the Rangers want young AHL/NHL talent and/or high draft picks and prospects to accelerate their rebuild, something the Bruins have a healthy supply of. Keep in mind he would be partnered with arguably a better partner in Krug, Carlo or McAvoy than the bevy of Rangers defensemen he has dragged along over his career.
Show Me The Money!
Keep in mind the Bruins would need to clear cap space to acquire him in a trade, and with most of the Bruins highest paid players carrying NTCs or being flat out untouchable like Tuukka Rask, Patrice Bergeron & Brad Marchand, making the money work would be seem difficult, albeit not impossible at first glance.
However, keep in mind that Ryan McDonagh’s cap hit would be prorated for this season. For example, let’s assume he is traded at the actual deadline, in that scenario his cap hit would be $1.1 million (40 days remaining/186 days in season*4.7 million). Right now the Bruins have roughly half a million in cap space, but can gain more easily enough with a variety of minor transactions.
The issue is then not so much this year, but next year, right? Well yes and no. As it stands currently it would be hard to fit McDonagh’s full $4.7 million under the cap, until you factor in reports that the cap is expected to rise between $3-7 million next year. If the Bruins wanted to straight up match salary for salary there’s really only a few names that work, David Krejci ($7.25m - MNTC), Torey Krug ($5.25m), David Pastrnak ($6.67m), and David Backes ($6m - MNTC). Of course Beleskey and his contract could be involved but that’s a tough sell all around given his current state of affairs.
How Much Is This Gonna Hurt?
Of those options, Pastrnak is the name most often thrown around, but it isn’t realistic for two reasons: Pastrnak is only 21 years old, is already one of the best players in the NHL, and he is signed for another five seasons after this one, versus McDonagh’s one remaining season. In addition to those reasons, the Boston Bruins are extremely high on Pastrnak and with good reason, he is a fan favorite budding superstar, with the work ethic of a fourth line grinder. As good as McDonagh is, I just can’t see the Bruins making that trade. While we are on the topic of untouchables, Charlie McAvoy, is inarguably at the top of that list, given how impressive he has been at such a young age.
So how do the Bruins make this all work then? What can they give the Rangers that would work under the salary cap, and also provide the Rangers with something resembling equal value in return? The answer is likely a combination of young, cheap players and prospects, both of which the Bruins have a surplus of.
Players the Rangers would be interested in are likely Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk and Brandon Carlo, as well as top prospects like Ryan Donato, Jake Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen or Trent Frederic. The Bruins could also throw in high draft picks to sweeten the deal, as they have made a high number of first and second round picks in recent years.
If the trade is going to happen, and it seems unlikely, it would likely require balancing the NHL roster to some extent, as the Bruins already have 8 NHL caliber defensmen on their roster and adding a 9th in McDonagh doesn’t work unless a corresponding move (or two) is made.
Shake The Dust Off Those Neely Jerseys, It’s Time To Play President, Baby!
So with all those parameters discussed, what does a trade with the Rangers look like, potentially? Here’s some that check all of the boxes:
Ryan McDonagh for....
- Trent Frederic or Urho Vaakanainen, the Bruins 2018 or 2019 1st round pick and one of Anders Bjork/Peter Cehlarik/Austin Czarnik. Waive/trade Postma or McQuaid.
- McQuaid or Miller, 1st round pick, 2nd round pick, mid to high level prospect (Gabrielle, Zboril, Senyshyn etc.)
- Torey Krug,a 2nd rounder and a mid level prospect. The issue from the Rangers perspective is Krug is only two years younger than McDonagh which is likely unappealing to a rebuilding team.
- Jake DeBrusk, Brandon Carlo, and a 3rd or 4th round pick or mid level prospect. Rangers eat 50% of McDonagh’s salary.
- Brandon Carlo plus Jack Studnicka or Trent Frederic, and Bruins 2018 or 2019 1st round pick
- Danton Heinen, a low draft pick and a mid level prospect. Waive/trade Postma or McQuaid.
Of all of those options, I’m of the opinion that the Heinen trade and the DeBrusk/Carlo trades would be the most appealing to the Rangers as they offer young, somewhat proven talents, in addition to picks/prospects to stock the Rangers cupboards. The question becomes are the Bruins willing to trade away a potential future 60pt plus forward in Heinen or their second best young defenseman in Carlo and one of their best young forwards in DeBrusk? The move makes them arguably the favorite to win the Stanley Cup, but would leave a large hole in their roster at forward.
Of course the trade could be expanded to include a winger coming back to the Bruins to alleviate that issue, but that’s still a lot to swallow if you are Cam Neely and Don Sweeney. Keep in mind the infamous issues this organization has had trading away young offensive forwards cough Phil KesselBlake WheelerTyler Seguin, cough...
...Would they risk the scorching criticism yet again?
On the flip side, the most appealing to the Bruins is easily option one or two as you aren’t hurting your current roster. Most importantly, while the price is still steep, you are well positioned to absorb the hit to your prospect and pick pool in the coming years. Unfortunately, it’s almost certainly not appealing enough to the Rangers, but hey, stranger things have happened, especially in Boston.
Give It To Me Straight
Like any trade speculation, even from a noted insider like Friedman, it’s highly unlikely to happen. The Bruins certainly have the pieces to make it happen, and McDonagh is a player worthy of a high price, but the Bruins are more than likely going to hold steady with their young players and ride this season out without shaking the teams core. As great a player as McDonagh is, the team still has to consider team chemistry in any moves that shake up the NHL roster, in addition to the staggering cost to acquire McDonagh. This team, by their own admission is closer than any in recent memory, and that has to have a sort of value in an of itself.
At the end of the day, the cost for both teams is going to be so high neither is likely to be comfortable making the move. There’s a reason players of McDonagh’s caliber are rarely traded, it’s too risky and NHL general managers tend to be more risk averse than those of us in the media or fandom. So while McDonagh in Black and Gold sure sounds like a dream worth watching, don’t hold your breath.