After the Tampa Bay Lightning acquired Ryan Callahan from the New York Rangers at the 2014 NHL Trade Deadline, a somewhat weird anomaly occurred on their roster. Over the next five seasons, no less than three former Rangers found themselves suiting up for Bolts throughout the season, with as many as five playing significant ice time at any given point.
Heading into the 2019-20 season, it appears that this streak will be coming to an end, however. After parting ways with four former Rangers in the 2019 off-season, (Callahan, Anton Stralman, Dan Girardi and J.T. Miller) the Lightning likely won’t hit their three-player minimum for the first time in half a decade.
This doesn’t mean that ex-Rangers still won’t play an important role with the franchise, though. With Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Shattenkirk likely playing in a starting role on the Lightning’s blue line, the franchise will still keep it’s New York flavor for the 2019-20 season.
As the new season approaches, what will be the expectations placed upon these former Rangers as the Lightning look to get over their playoff hump?
Can McDonagh Continue His Success?
When the Lightning traded for McDonagh at the 2018 deadline, they gave up a large package of picks and prospects to bring in what they thought would be the final piece to their defensive puzzle.
After spending a full season in Tampa, fans can safely say that McDonagh still is the real deal. Throughout 2018-19, he played a vital role on the blue line, putting together 46 points while eating up more
Heading into the 2019-20 season, expectations should be high for McDonagh. He has shown that he still is a top-end
Sure, that contract may not be a steal, but if McDonagh can continue to play 20-plus minutes a night, it will take some of the pressure off of Hedman, which can be invaluable throughout the season.
Will Shattenkirk Bounce Back?
To say that Shattenkirk had a rough couple of years while playing for
Despite these struggles, though, Shattenkirk could be in for a renaissance year in Tampa Bay. Not only are the Lightning one of the most offensively gifted teams in the league, but they also feature a deep defensive corps that will allow him to play a smaller role with the franchise.
No longer will Shattenkirk be playing top-line minutes against the NHL’s best, allowing him to get the most out of his 15 to 16 minutes of ice time each night. Even if his defensive game is still suspect, it should be less evident on the third pairing compared to his time on New York’s top-pairing.
Also, given his cheap $1.75 million contract, even if things don’t work with Tampa Bay, the Lightning could trade him to a team in need of a defender, giving the franchise a lot of flexibility. Overall, this signing was nearly perfect on paper, and if things go well, Shattenkirk could be that final piece that puts the Bolts’ defense over the top.
Ex-Rangers Still a Vital Part of Lightning
Even if the Lightning’s roster will no longer be dominated by former Rangers, the Rags still have a noticeable imprint on the franchise’s blue line.
Both McDonagh and Shattenkirk should be key players for the Lightning heading into the 2019-20 season. If they can succeed, it will set the franchise up for a strong regular season and another run at the Stanley Cup.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.