The St. Louis Blues must improve their defense in the 2022-23 season, but the answer isn’t Ryan McDonagh of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The other options on the market make more sense, whether it’s Jakob Chychrun, Ivan Provorov, or Travis Sanheim.
A trade for McDonagh would take far too much creativity from both sides, and that’s not a move that makes sense right now. He’s been a phenomenal player for the Lightning over the past four and a half seasons, and his 12-year career has been fantastic, but the Blues are clearly not in a position to make this move.
Financial Issues on the Blue Line
The Blues already have tons of term and money committed to their defense. McDonagh’s current contract carries a cap hit of $6.75 million and four seasons. That doesn’t align with what the Blues need in a defensive upgrade this offseason, even if McDonagh could fit well.
The Blues have three defensemen with cap hits of $6.5 million, those being Colton Parayko, Torey Krug, and Justin Faulk. With the years left, Parayko has eight, and Krug and Faulk have five each left. Those financial commitments combined with the term make a deal for McDonagh not ideal for the cap situation. The Blues need to trade Marco Scandella, but even after that move, this still doesn’t make much sense.
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong has already spent a lot of money on the blue line, which is part of why this deal wouldn’t make sense. They must get creative with moves like these, but a player with four years left on his contract doesn’t make sense.
McDonagh’s Low Production Over Last 3 Seasons
The last three seasons for McDonagh have lacked production, even if that isn’t what he is out there for. He has been a playoff horse for the Lightning, especially when they won the Stanley Cup in 2021, but his regular seasons have not been ideal. The Blues would need more from McDonagh than the Lightning have, they don’t have Victor Hedman or Mikhail Sergachev on the left side of their defensive unit.
While points aren’t the most important thing to get from McDonagh, his decline in scoring is noticeable. His puck shooting numbers over the past three seasons are way down, he hasn’t registered over 100 shots since pre-COVID in 2018-19. He has nine goals over his last 171 games, which matches his total from 2018-19 in 82 games. His offense has disappeared, but that hasn’t been the same story with his defensive game.
His overall game remains strong, but the contract and complexity of the deal make this tough for the Blues. A veteran defenseman of his age and experience could be a great fit alongside Parayko, but I still think the Blues should look elsewhere or even try to re-sign Nick Leddy to a friendly deal.
Blues Should Look Elsewhere on the Market
The trade market for defensemen this summer is likely to be robust, with possible movement coming during the 2022 NHL Draft. The names that make the most sense for the Blues are Chychrun, Provorov, and Sanheim. All three of those players are far younger than McDonagh and have more workable contracts.
McDonagh is still a quality defenseman, but this deal is too complicated to make sense for the Blues as things stand right now. If Armstrong wants to acquire McDonagh, he’ll need to make aggressive moves right away. One of those moves is to ship Scandella out for next to nothing to clear his cap hit off of the books. I still looking elsewhere on the market for a younger defenseman should be the move, but McDonagh looks like the type of player that Armstrong would love to add to the roster.
If the Blues are going to improve their defensive unit, it needs to be sooner rather than later. There is no reason to wait on any of this, I could see the Blues making a trade before or during the draft, similar to last year with the Pavel Buchnevich trade. It’s not an argument of team chemistry or systematic fit for McDonagh, it’s nearly everything else.
I have been covering sports for nearly a decade. I started with FanSided as a Baseball Contributor. Now I am writing about the NHL and the St. Louis Blues for The Hockey Writers. I grew up in Central Illinois as a huge fan of every sport. Finally, I do various podcasting across all major platforms.