The Tampa Bay Lightning announced today that they have signed defender Ryan McDonagh to a seven-year contract extension, worth $6.75M per season. According to Joe Smith of The Athletic, the deal comes with a full no-trade clause through 2026. McDonagh, who was acquired at the 2018 trade deadline from the New York Rangers, has one season remaining on his current contract.
As mentioned in this blog earlier in the offseason, McDonagh comes with a sterling reputation. Long viewed as one of the league's premier rearguards, he brings with him a pedigree that is nearly unmatched around the league. The trouble, of course, is that teams shouldn't sign seven year extensions to pay for past performance; they should be looking towards the future.
In this case, projections for future performance are iffy at best. A quick look at McDonagh's statistical trend line tells a concerning story:
With this extension now set to pay him $6.75M per season, McDonagh is being paid as though he is still that 2012-13 version of himself. He's not. And, to make matters worse, he'll be 30 years old when this deal kicks in. Hockey players don't generally reverse the aging trend after that point, though if the Bolts are going to get fair value out of this contract they'd better hope McDonagh can do so.
Even if you're reasonably comfortable with the idea that McDonagh is worth $6.75M today, which this blogger still views as very debatable, the back-end of this deal looks unfathomably bad. There is very little chance that this doesn't result in dead money for a Lightning team that doesn't have much wiggle room. And, considering the extension comes with that no-trade clause, the Bolts are likely stuck with it.
As alluded to above, one of the common refrains I've seen in the wake of the player signing this extension is that it's a fine contract for at least the next three of four years. But, I think it's important to at least be open to the realization that McDonagh may no longer be the top-pairing defender that his reputation suggests he is. The WOWY numbers, courtesy of @IneffectiveMath, tell a quite the story:
It's often been said that McDonagh is better than his recent numbers suggest because he was forced to play with Dan Girardi and Nick Holden, but if you look at his numbers from last year in New York (pre-trade) you'll see that Holden was actually *better* away from McDonagh than with him. This isn't the case of a player being anchored by his partner, as has been suggested. Plus, if you're going to call someone a top-pairing guy, wouldn't you expect him to be able to weather a time with a supposedly bad partner at least somewhat effectively? The numbers in the first chart, combined with these from @IneffectiveMath, would suggest that McDonagh today is not the McDonagh of yesteryear.
Ultimately, what this deal signifies to me is that the Lightning need to win now. Things are going to get expensive in the coming years, so getting to hockey's highest peak in the relative short-term is basically a must. Kucherov is still affordable for another year. Brayden Point is on a steal of a deal. The time is now, because once everyone needs to be paid top dollar, contracts like this extension are going to make it tough to keep everyone else.
As always, thanks for reading.