Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports

What would a Ryan McDonagh trade have looked like for the Bruins?

Ty Anderson
February 26, 2018 - 9:36 pm

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney, who made a whopping four transactions in the week prior to the close of the NHL trade deadline on Monday, was not willing to disclose whether or not he was in on a potential deal for Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh.

“I’m never going to talk about players that I’ve discussed with any general managers,” Sweeney said. “I was aware of the marketplace, well aware.”

(Ignore the quote itself. You can actually read that as T-Bone’s “Oh, most definitely.”)

Boston’s awareness wasn’t enough to make a deal, though, as it was the Atlantic-leading Lightning that swung a deal for McDonagh minutes before the trade deadline by sending Vladdy Namestnikov, two prospects, and two draft picks to New York for the Ranger captain.

The 25-year-old Namestnikov heads to Broadway with 20 goals and 44 points (both career-highs) through 62 games this season. 2016 first-round pick Brett Howden, the forward prospect picked up by the Rangers in this deal, heads to the Ranger organization with 60 goals and 139 points in his last 96 games in the WHL. The other prospect sent to New York, 6-foot-2 defenseman Libor Hajek, is a 2016 second-round pick that’s tallied eight goals and 25 points in 33 games in the WHL this season.

To secure McDonagh by 3 p.m., the Bolts also parted with a 2018 first-round pick and a conditional second-round pick in 2019. That conditional second-round pick becomes a first should the Lightning win the Stanley Cup this season or next year. (And you gotta admit you like their chances.)

It’s all quite a haul for general manager Jeff Gorton’s Blueshirts, and came with forward J.T. Miller (13 goals and 40 points this season) thrown in along with McDonagh.

But is it something the Bruins could have matched?

Take the Nash trade out of the equation and it’s definitely doable. (The cap headache required to make a trade for both work would have been just straight-up absurd.)

But it obviously would not have been anything close to favorable for the Black and Gold.

Applying the same metrics to the McDonagh-to-Tampa trade, a Boston-New York deal likely would have started with Jake DeBrusk, especially if he was indeed the NHL piece that the Rangers targeted in a trade with Boston. And if it was a center prospect the Rangers needed (as the Howden inclusion would lead you to believe), that’s probably Trent Frederic or Jack Studnicka territory. But given Howden’s ranking near the top of the Lightning prospect charts, the Blueshirts could have even ventured as far out to suggest that Harvard standout Ryan Donato be included in the deal. Ryan Lindgren, moved in the Nash deal yesterday, would have been a fit for the McDonagh deal (and fits the bill for this package as the Rangers previously identified him as a trade target). 

The picks would obviously be included, and likely come with the same conditions. And you can figure the Rangers throw in a player like Miller like they did in the deal with Tampa Bay, and the Bruins add in Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey like they did in the Nash trade to make things work from a cap perspective.

So in this hypothetical deal, that’s Spooner, DeBrusk, Beleskey (with retained salary), Trent Frederic or Ryan Donato, Ryan Lindgren, and two draft picks (potentially two first-round picks at that) in exchange for McDonagh and someone like Miller.

Is that a deal worth doing if you’re the Bruins? Maybe yes, maybe no.

Your answer likely comes down to what you put more stock in (added top-six scoring or a stabilizing presence on your second defensive pairing), and what you considered a greater need for a Black and Gold that’s yet to show a fatal flaw in their game. And even with McDonagh being under contract for the remainder of this year and next season, such an unloading of prospects both in the NHL today and those soon on the way would have taken Sweeney a bit off the course he charted when first taking the job.

“We are trying to build something for winning now and winning in the future, and we weren’t going to deviate from that, and I don’t think we have,” Sweeney said on Monday when analyzing his club’s deadline adds, as well as their non-moves. No disrespect to the players that have left our organization because we wish them well, but we have charted a course that we are not going to deviate from. I think we have improved our hockey club, and I expect us to be a very strong team coming down the stretch.”

Sweeney and the Bruins will get a look at what a deviation could have done for their team, however, with more regular-season head-to-heads and a potential second-round playoff showdown with the McDonagh-infused Bolts on the way.  

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