Trades and drafting are often the top two ways for fans and a league to judge a General Manager and their capability. Even the best GM’s in history have made mistakes and head-scratching trades that call for them to be fired. It seems to be a vicious circle when it comes to the fanbase and whether or not they are happen with the General Manager of their team. The best trades or draft picks call for the highest of praise, but one bad signing calls for their job. In this first installment of “Was it Worth It?” we will take an in depth look into the New York Rangers trade with the Montreal Canadiens where they acquired one of their top-defenseman and current captain, Ryan McDonagh.
The former Badger from the University of Wisconsin was drafted by the Montreal organization 12th overall in the first round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. After being drafted, he was traded in 2009 to the New York Rangers with Chris Higgins, Doug Janik, and Pavel Valentenko in exchange for Scott Gomez, Tom Pyatt, and Mike Busto. This trade cleared cap space and brought in what was supposed to be a great goal scorer in Chris Higgins and can mold McDonagh into the blue-collar blue liner that he is today.
Then on July 6, 2010 McDonagh signed an entry level contract with New York and did not play in his Senior year season at the University of Wisconsin. In his three seasons at the University of Wisconsin, he played in 119 games and tallied 14 goals and 46 points. After signing his entry level contract, McDonagh spent 38 games in the minors with the Hartford Wolfpack and tallied only 8 points.
Finally, on January 3, 2011, McDonagh was called up to the Rangers and on January 7, he played his first NHL game against the Dallas Stars. He recorded his first NHL point on January 20, an assist on a Brandon Prust goal, against the Carolina Hurricanes. McDonagh finally scored his first NHL goal, a game-winner, against the New Jersey Devils on April 9, 2011 and also secured the Rangers spot in the playoffs for that season.
By the end of the 2011 season, McDonagh was being paired with Dan Girardi and playing top minutes. He played in 40 regular season games and only 5 playoff games. The next season (2011-2012), Ryan played in all 82 games and recorded 7 goals and 32 points. He really started to blossom this year and helped the Rangers reach the Eastern Conference Finals where they were bumped out by the New Jersey Devils.
Unfortunately, the next season was almost cancelled due to a lockout. Luckily, by the beginning of January the NHL and the NHLPA were able to make a deal and have a shortened season. It may not have been the best in McDonagh’s career and with an early exit in the second round from the Boston Bruins the team was more determined than ever to bounce back.
Before the start of the 2013-2014 season, McDonagh signed a six year contract worth $28.2 million. McDonagh was a clear star during the 2013-2014 campaign and had a breakout season. He lead all team defenseman in scoring with 43 points in 77 games. With his shutdown defensive capabilities and offensive touch, he helped lead the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 20 years where they ultimately lost to the Los Angles Kings. During those playoffs, McDonagh was tied for first in defenseman in assists (13) and was fifth among players. He was also ranked second in points among defenseman with 17.
At the trade deadline in the 2014 season, the Rangers traded away their Captain, Ryan Callahan, to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Martin St. Louis. New York opted to not name a new Captain until the next season. Before the start of the 2014-2015 season, on October 6, 2015, the Rangers named Ryan McDonagh their 27th Captain in team history. In his first season as the Captain, he helped the Rangers clinch the President’s Trophy (awarded to the number 1 team in the NHL). Despite being knocked out in Game 7 of the Conference Finals, McDonagh made sure his team did not give up hope. When they were down 3 games to 1 in the second round, he was the guy leading the charge. He kept the Rangers alive in Game 5 to keep the Blueshirts on life-support.
His first season with the captaincy was by no means an easy one for #27. He battled injuries (separated shoulder and playing the last 3 games of the Eastern Conference Finals with a broken foot) and criticism on his game. He certainly had a slow start and you could tell that having the “C” on his sweater put a lot of weight on his shoulders. However, his signs of struggle cannot be overlooked by his moments of brilliance.
McDonagh was chosen to be the Captain of this team for a reason. He exemplifies what it means to be a New York Ranger. He is their top shutdown defenseman, kills penalties, plays the power play, and is even an Olympian where he played on USA’s top defensive pair. He has earned the respect of his teammates and no matter the situation on or off the ice, he handles it in a professional manner. He may not be the most vocal captain in the league, but he does lead by example.
So the question is, was it worth it? Glen Sather and the Rangers certainly found a gem in a no name kid from Minnesota in a big time trade just to dump Scott Gomez’s salary. They knew McDonagh was going to be a great defenseman, but he has certainly exceeded their expectations. With one year under his belt as Captain, next season should be a lot easier on McDonagh mentally. He is going to be a great Captain for years to come.