The New York Rangers have emphasized defense this offseason with the signing of top free agent Kevin Shattenkirk and the re-signing of trade deadline acquisition Brendan Smith. Between the two of them, the Rangers have exactly $11MM per year locked up until the 2020-21 season. Tie in the $5.7MM invested in veteran Marc Staal, who not that long ago was being discussed as a buyout candidate, and New York has $16.7MM invested in three veteran defensemen over the next four years. That’s all well and good (even if Staal proves to be worth that type of money). The Rangers wanted to beef up their defense and they have done that even if it’s at the cost of their offense. However, there is one key aspect missing in their defense. Ryan McDonagh.
Yes, the team captain – heart and soul of their defense. He’s only locked in at a very reasonable $4.7MM for the next two years and the New York Post’s Larry Brooks suggests that he is the third most underpaid player in the NHL, which may cause the Rangers some problems in two years when he becomes a unrestricted free agent in the 2019-2020 season. Listing just Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and the New York Islanders’ John Tavares as the most underpaid, the scribe writes that while Crosby’s career is cemented in Pittsburgh, that may not be the case for Tavares, who is currently making the Islanders sweat and possibly consider trading him before he leaves New York for nothing. That may be the same story for McDonough one year after that.
McDonough has two years to decide whether he wants to spend the rest of his career in New York. Brooks writes that he may be interested in returning home to Minnesota and joining a Wild team that should have the money to pay him handsomely in two years. Everything may come down to how he enjoys playing with offensively-gifted Kevin Shattenkirk compared to his previous long-time partner, defensively-gifted Dan Girardi. In the end, it may come down to money and whether the Rangers are willing to commit what is likely to be $7-8MM per year for possibly seven or eight years to keep their then-30-year-old captain when they are already overloaded with a large number of defensive contracts. The point is that McDonough will not make it to free agency as a Ranger. He will have enough power, like Tavares does with the Islanders now, to command whether he gets that long-term deal as a Ranger or force them into dealing him in a year.