That's what happened to the Tampa Bay Lightning defence core today, when the team dealt Vladislav Namestnikov and some futures to the New York Rangers for Ryan McDonagh and JT Miller. Full particulars of the deal are included below:
We have acquired Ryan McDonagh & J.T. Miller from the @nyrangers in exchange for Vlad Namestnikov, Brett Howden, Libor Hajek, a 2018 first-round pick, and a conditional 2019 second-round pick.— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) February 26, 2018
📝: https://t.co/6iYsoZZDTS pic.twitter.com/VMv4Wv3Fl9
Leading up to the trade deadline, it was abundantly clear to everyone on planet earth that the Lightning had some holes on the blue line. Three competent D and a mix of bad to worse around them wasn't going to get it done in the NHL playoffs, just like three of six daily doses of medicine isn't going to get you back to full health. What the Bolts have done by acquiring McDonagh is give themselves that additional extra strength dose. With Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman, Mikhail Sergachev, and the newly-acquired McDonagh, the Lightning have a top-four that can be stacked up against any other team in the league. Adding a second number-one D (and that's what McDonagh is) has completely changed the face of this Lightning blue line.
While much of the trade-related speculation around the Lightning today involved Erik Karlsson, a deal with the Ottawa Senators ultimately did not materialize. Don't let the fact that McDonagh wasn't necessarily the first choice discourage you, though. Grabbing a legitimate 1D as a "consolation prize" of sorts is a major win for Tampa Bay, especially when you consider the McDonagh still has another year on his deal at a very affordable rate:
I've seen some commentary around McDonagh being a left-handed D and whether that's a concern given TB's surplus there. Lefty, righty... doesn't matter. When you're adding this to your team, you're upgrading in a big way (from @MimicoHero): pic.twitter.com/oYfxAp2AMc— Michael Stuart (@MikeStuartTLL) February 27, 2018
As far as the price goes, it's hard to complain from a Tampa perspective. Yzerman was able to acquire a legitimate top-pairing defender without giving up either Sergachev or Brayden Point. He did it without giving up Cal Foote or Taylor Raddysh, too. Howden and Hajek are undoubtedly very good prospects, but you have to give to get. The Lightning took out a small line of credit on the future in an attempt to win now; they didn't mortgage the whole family farm.
Perhaps the best and most intriguing part of the return, though, is that Yzerman was able to immediately replace the on-roster piece given up in this deal. By nabbing JT Miller in the exchange, the hole left by Namestnikov is immediately filled. Miller is a young, big, and proven producer who should be able to come in and provide a nice middle-six presence for the team on its drive to the postseason and beyond. Frequent readers of this blog know that I am a bigger fan of Namestnikov and all he does than most, but it's impossible to deny that McDonagh + Miller is a clear upgrade on Namestnikov alone. This team is tangibly better today than it was yesterday.
In conclusion, today is a great day to be a fan of the Tampa Bay Lightning. While teams around them in division were making upgrades of their own, the Lightning went all-in with the biggest move of them all. The best team in the league got better. It's as simple as that.
As always, thanks for reading.