Ryan McDonagh Elevates Nashville Into Cup Contender Status

What does Ryan McDonagh bring to Nashville?

Hello Smashville faithful, and welcome to another article from yours truly about our 2022-2023 Nashville Predators. I’ve been working on this piece for quite some time because I haven’t found the right thoughts to put behind Nashville’s trade for McDonagh other than the simple fact that McDonagh makes Nashville a better team. Let’s explore:

Nashville fans were thrilled that the Predators had found a partner to take Philippe Meyers earlier this summer when they traded Meyers and Grant Mismash to the Lightning. In his introductory press conference, he said:

“The first thing that stood out to me was where [Nashville] is competitively,” McDonagh said. “Anybody that’s played Nashville knows the group they have there and how they’ve made the playoffs and [how they’re] trying to be a contender to win the Cup. As a player, you want to be a part of teams that have a chance to win the Cup.”

McDonagh impressed when he visited several Junior Predators camps over the summer. It’s pretty clear that this addition elevates Nashville into a better position than they were in May. McDonagh isn’t “the” missing piece, but his presence improves the team significantly. So what does that mean?

The 33 year-old was a former captain for the New York Rangers, and he wore a letter for the Lightning, too. McDonagh checks a leadership box on a team full of leaders in Smashville - Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg, Mikael Granlund, Ryan Johansen, and more. However, it’s the boost to Nashville’s blueline that’s the important factor here. When you’ve got Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Dante Fabbro, Mark Boroweicki, Alex Carrier, and various 7th/8th defensemen, adding McDonagh truly puts Nashville’s blueline back in “big league” status - a place they haven’t been since P.K. Subban’s multiple injuries derailed his solid play. Like Ekholm and Fabbro, McDonagh seems to have the “underrated” tag placed on him quite often throughout the season:

It’ll also be a boost to have McDonagh’s 26 points from last season (4 goals, 22 assists) for Nashville’s production. His average time on ice (ATOI) during Tampa Bay’s last three Stanley Cup trips was a whopping 22+ minutes.

I’m not worried about what side McDonagh will play on. Our friends at A to Z sports remind us that McDonagh hasn’t played on the right since his time with the Rangers, but it’s likely that the pairings with be adjusted in the preseason and for the first few games in October until the coaching staff is happy. McDonagh or Ekholm could switch to the right side, and this could allow Alex Carrier to play third-pair minutes in a more sheltered role.

Multiple hockey outlets note that the McDonagh trade indicate that Nashville is in win-now mode. With Filip Forsberg under contract, it’s clear that adding McDonagh (and Nino Niederreiter) put the Predators in the contenders column. Without beating a dead horse, these offseason additions are designed to make the Predators tougher to play against, and McDonagh is a huge key. If we can count on some overtime blasts like this one, I think #27 elevates Nashville into contender status in 2022-2023.

For me, McDonagh is the “new” player I’m most excited about this coming season. His impact will be quite visible.