They will not pay either player for long-term deals to prevent them from approaching the free agent market. They were all negotiated before the deadline.
No, it's not Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes, sent to Dallas and Winnipeg, respectively, last weekend, but rather to Ryan McDonagh and JT Miller, who were both traded for the Lightning a few minutes before the 2018 deadline, and who returned to the garden on Wednesday to help their new team defeat the Rangers 4-3 in overtime.
For more than 12 months since the Rangers announced their intention to dismantle and rebuild the existing, old and inadequate structure, the management has carried out seven transactions involving Nick Holden, Michael Grabner, Rick Nash, McDonagh, Miller, Zuccarello, Hayes and Adam McQuaid.
None of the other six approaches the importance of the Tampa Bay deal, in which the club traded its captain, and one of the top nine out of nine defensemen, was once considered a base for a set of futures and choices (and balancer Vlad Namestnikov).
It's not about who won and who lost the deal. There has never been a debate about the quality that the Lightning, first overall and favorite emerging to win the Cup, managed to add on February 26th. Tampa Bay was there, just as the Rangers had done every year since 2012. -17, and the Lightning acquired a pair of players that strengthened an already powerful list.
The Lightning was still going to get a win from the deal.
The question from Lightning's point of view was twofold: a) Would the latter emigrants from Broadway, who would join other former Blueshirt snowbirds, Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi and Anton Stralman, could lead the Lightning to the country? promised? and, b) could the Lightning sign players for long-term contracts?
To meet the A part, Tampa Bay has not yet lost in seven games against the final of last year's conference against any Capitals, who have been cleared in the last two games after taking a lead of 3 -2 in series.
The answer to part B is yes. The Lightning has given McDonagh, who was on track for the 2019 free agency, a six-year extension worth $ 6.75 million a year. The team also signed with Miller, who had a year to market on July 1 for a five-year contract worth $ 5.25 million.
McDonagh's match had slipped during his last seasons in New York, overwhelmed by the captaincy he had been awarded at the start of the 2014-15 season. by a series of wounds; and by an insufficient set of partners on the first right side of the first pair including Girardi and Holden. He appeared as a pillar of the second pair behind Victor Hedman. Miller, who started last year in the unit with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, got mostly third-line minutes this season while still being largely the same erratic player as he was in New York.
It's much harder to appreciate the Rangers team one year on the year, but it's fair to say that the backtracking seems insubstantial for two players that should have been extremely desirable products in the deadline market. or the project last year.
The 2018 first-round pick was used by right-handed defender Nils Lundkvist, who had a great year of development in Sweden. The 2019 second round pick will become a first round (and therefore 31st overall) if the Lightning wins the Cup. Namestnikov was not a factor. Brett Howden, a first-rounder late in 2016, had a credible rookie season at the age of 20, seeming to confirm the predictions that he could become an upscale third-line center.
But defenseman Libor Hajek, the second-ranked Tampa Bay 2016 player to be ranked 37th overall, was the Rangers' target. He is the player they should have in the transaction. He is also the player that Steve Yzerman, then general manager, would not trade unless Miller, who scored a power play goal in the first period on Wednesday, was included in the offer.
The Rangers thought Hajek would compete for the blue line this year, as did his junior coach, John Paddock. Instead, Hajek had an extremely difficult first season with the American League Wolf Pack. Clearly, this is not what Blueshirts need (ed).
So we wait. We are waiting to follow Howden's progress. We are waiting for Lundkvist. We are waiting to see if the Rangers can get another first class player. Above all, we are waiting for Hajek. Because, if the Rangers believed, if Hajek did not become the big defender, it would not be that Tampa Bay would win the Trade of '18, but the Rangers would lose it.