Nashville Predators Can Lean on Ryan McDonagh During Rebuild

Mar 25, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) waits for a face off during the third period against the Seattle Kraken at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 25, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) waits for a face off during the third period against the Seattle Kraken at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

The Nashville Predators signaled a rebuild by trading several players at the 2023 trade deadline, and it is likely that they are not done. There are still a few players on the roster who do not quite fit the mold of what this team is trying to be, and at least on the surface, one of them is Ryan McDonagh.

McDonagh was acquired last offseason from the Tampa Bay Lightning, and with how little the Predators gave up, it was incredibly tough to turn down for a team that was still trying to win now.

Unfortunately, the Predators fell well short of that goal, and they are now left with his contract for three more years at $6.75M per year while he is 34 years old (when the new season starts).

That in itself is less than ideal, and when you add that his deal has a full no-trade clause for two more years followed by a modified no-trade clause in its final year, the Predators really cannot move him.

They are stuck with McDonagh for the foreseeable future, but he is one of those players who, at least relatively speaking, is good to be stuck with.

McDonagh’s experience and accomplishments will help Nashville Predators’ youth

Whenever you hear the word “intangibles” thrown around, few players exhibit them more than McDonagh. Even from a young age, he has been a trusted voice and presence on the teams he has played for.

McDonagh was the captain for New York Rangers from the start of the 2014-15 season and remained in the role until he was traded to Tampa Bay at the 2018 deadline. He never wore the “C” for the Lightning, but arguably took his level of intangibles to the next level while there.

His presence as a leader never diminished, and anyone on the Lightning will rave about how much his abilities aided them as a team.

Even when they traded him for essentially nothing, the organization mentioned how tough of a decision it was, and his teammates will go on about what he meant to the team. And I would argue that them trading him just days after they mentioned intent to do so is evident of how much respect they have for him as a person, because they could have dragged it out until they got a better package if they really wanted to.

All of that alone is enough for a team like the Predators, with so little experience and leadership on the roster, to be able to take advantage of a guy like McDonagh on the team. But where he is going to separate himself — and where he really took his experience to the next level while on the Lightning — is having played a key role in them winning not one, but two Stanley Cups.

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Not just as a leader and locker room presence, but as a player too, as he was one of the league’s very best defensive-minded defensemen while in the Lightning and still brings that skillset to the Predators. It is not just that he has won but that he has contributed to winning in several different ways, and truly knows how to get it done.

And honestly, the fact that he is at this point in his career is particularly advantageous to a team like the Predators. Lots of guys in his position who have not won a Cup yet will want to do so by any means necessary, and if McDonagh had not won anything yet, I could see him wanting to be shipped off to a contender to be able to fulfill his dreams.

Who knows exactly what he wants, but it is likely that he is very content just staying in Nashville as is for the next few years. Do not forget that last offseason, he was not thrilled about moving, but because of his no-trade clause, was traded to a place that he personally chose to reside in.

And everyone knows that moving your family to a new location for any reason — and no matter how far — is really tough.

At this point, McDonagh may just want to keep his family settled in Nashville for the next few years, because trying desperately to win another Cup might not be worth the pain of having to move again when he has already won twice.

He also has lots to gain from staying in Nashville, because he is now in a position where he can focus on being somewhat of a teacher for the young players on the Predators. People, no matter what profession they are in, gain tremendously by learning from those who have succeeded at their craft at the highest level.

Being able to learn lessons from McDonagh might put the Predators ahead of most teams who go through rebuilds.

Once again, nobody is going to love his somewhat expensive contract being on the books, and I could easily see Barry Trotz trying to trade him in two years when his no-trade clause is reduced to only twelve teams.

But for now, the Nashville Predators are going to have to make the best of McDonagh being on the team, and they can do more than simply making the best of it. He is going to be a legitimate asset for them as they transition and go through a trial and error phase for the next two to three years.