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Lightning load up for Stanley Cup charge with addition of McDonagh, Miller from Rangers

Tampa Bay is going for it. The Lighting obtained Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller from the New York Rangers, bolstering their already star-studded lineup with a top-pairing defender and a versatile forward.

Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman has served notice. In acquiring Ryan McDonagh from the New York Rangers, he not only landed a top-pairing defenseman for a team that already had Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman and a solid supporting cast, but he also kept McDonagh away from potential playoff rivals Toronto and Pittsburgh.

As it is, McDonagh makes the Lightning a matchup nightmare on the back end. His ability to log big minutes and play in all situations will not only take pressure off of Hedman, but he’ll complement the big Swede, too. Tampa Bay basically has eight NHL blueliners right now, giving the team maximum depth for the playoff run.
Of course, Yzerman also acquired center J.T. Miller in the trade, making the biggest deal of the day an even better one for the Bolts. Miller ostensibly replaces Vlad Namestnikov in the lineup (not that the two players are precisely the same, but still…), giving Tampa Bay amazing depth both up front and on defense. Miller plays a solid two-way game and while his Rangers career seemed to go in fits and starts, there’s definitely a lot to like about him.

Clearly, Yzerman did not want to leave anything to chance this spring as he tries to win Tampa’s second Stanley Cup and in acquiring McDonagh and Miller, he did his job.

In exchange, the Rangers get a solid top-six forward in Namestnikov and two very good prospects in Libor Hajek and Brett Howden. Namestnikov was having his best NHL season yet, largely playing with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. The versatile forward is also a restricted free agent this summer, meaning New York can lock him up on a long-term deal if the Rangers like what they see from here on out. At 25, he’s in his peak years and for a New York team looking to retool, he can be a valuable commodity that contributes right away.

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As for the two prospects, Hajek and Howden both play solid, all-around games. Hajek is a minute-munching defenseman who skates well and looked very good for the Czechs at the world juniors in Buffalo. Howden won gold at that same tournament with Canada, showing off some nice skill to go with the 200-foot game he has been known for in his young career. While neither is likely to play for the team next season, don’t be surprised to see them push for jobs in 2019-20.

Thanks to the first-rounder acquired by GM Jeff Gorton in this deal, the Rangers now have three picks in the top 31 of the 2018 NHL draft. For a team that is just starting to rebuild a pipeline ravaged by years of going for the Stanley Cup, this is great news for New York fans. Gorton is building the right way and the spoils he is getting by selling off at this deadline will truly help the Blueshirts in the future.

While this deal is a home run for Tampa Bay, the Rangers definitely helped themselves out in the long run, too.