How Lightning Built A Champion Through Rangers

In any sport, fans will bond between the team of their choice and league opponents. It comes in many forms, from a simple interstate rivalry that brings decades of history with it, to a favorite player leaving for a new team and the fanbase letting them know what they think of this decision each time they come to town.

From 2014 to 2020, there are there were many direct connections between the New York Rangers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Over the course of about five years, the Lightning steadily poached talent from New York through trades, free agent signings and even a few buyout candidates they used to grow their young core with talent. veterans. In fact, players left the Rangers to join Tampa Bay so often that a running joke at the time was that they were, in fact, the Tampa Bay Rangers.

Throughout 2010, the Tampa Bay Lightning built a Stanley Cup champion by acquiring top talent through trades and free agency, often from the New York Rangers. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

This strategy worked, because the Lightning built a Championship contender and Stanley Cup winner thanks to the talent they acquired in New York. So, as these two franchises face off in the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals, let’s take a look back at some of the former Rangers who contributed to Tampa Bay’s recent success.

Lightning’s 2014 blockbuster with New York changed their future

The first recent move between the Lightning and Rangers was their blockbuster 2014 trade that sent Martin St. Louis and a 2015 second-round pick to New York for Ryan Callahan, first-round picks in 2014 and 2015, as well as a seventh round in 2015. . While the original agreement had a number of conditions, this reflects the full extent of the trade once these are met.

While THW recently did a bigger story on this blockbuster trade, basically this deal set off a series of events extending beyond the initial scope of picks and acquired players. In the deal itself, the Lightning acquired a veteran starting forward whom they re-signed to a long-term (albeit overpriced) contract and numerous draft picks, one of which was used to select Anthony Cirelli. They also picked Daniel Walcott with New York’s seventh extra round, who was a fantastic player at Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch.

Related: The 2014 Rangers-Lightning Blockbuster That Reshaped Both Franchises

However, the biggest impact of that trade wasn’t Callahan’s picks or even his play on the ice. After arriving at the Lightning, the former Rangers captain took advantage of his presence to attract major free agents to Tampa Bay. In 2014, this included both Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle.

Although neither player was a superstar, they both played a important role for the Lightning. Stralman returned to a top-four defensive role for a team desperate for quality defenders, where Boyle played a consistent bottom-six role, scoring at least 13 goals and 20 points each season.

Without these players, it’s unlikely the Lightning would reach the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals and continue to find success in 2016 with a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. Also, when they finally had a down year in 2017, they sent Boyle back to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a second-round pick and Byron Froesemaximizing its value.

Girardi and Big Trades followed Lightning and Rangers

After the 2016-17 season, when the Lightning missed the playoffs by just one point, the team signed Dan Girardi, whom the Rangers bought out his contract after playing 11 seasons in New York. While only on a two-year contract, Girardi quickly endeared himself to fans with his tough-as-nails game, even though he was no longer a dominant defender.

These aren’t the last Rangers defensemen the Lightning will acquire for the 2017-18 season, however. At the 2018 trade deadline, then-general manager Steve Yzerman swung one of the biggest deals of the season, acquiring defenseman Ryan McDonagh and forward JT Miller from New York for Vladislav Namestnikov, prospects Libor Hajek and Brett Howden, as well as a 2018 first-round pick and a conditional 2019 pick that becomes a pick second round.

With this trade, the Lightning acquired a key defenseman in McDonagh, as well as a solid starting forward in Miller, who has let up a bit with his new team. While they would fall again in the Eastern Conference Finals, the team looked set to win big in 2018-19.

JT Miller Ryan McDonagh Tampa Bay Lightning
For more than a year, the Lightning’s blue line featured at least three former New York Rangers in their top six. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

And they won. Throughout 2018-19, the Lightning dominated the league while bringing together one of best performances in the regular season in NHL history. However, as we all know, this team didn’t win it all and instead got swept in the first round of the playoffs.

Undeterred, new General Manager of the Lightning Julien BriseBois returned to Yzerman’s playbook and used his old New York assets to his advantage. First, he returned Miller to the Vancouver Canucks for a 2020 first-round pick and a 2019 third-round pick, which was used to select goaltender Hugo Alnefelt.

Then he dipped back into the Rangers buyout pool by signing Kevin Shattenkirk to a one-year demo deal. It was a perfect fit for the veteran defenseman as he was able to thrive in a smaller role with the Lightning before signing a major deal with the Anaheim Ducks. Finally, he traded Miller’s first-round pick with prospect Nolan Foote to the New Jersey Devils for Blake Coleman.

The Lightning won two Stanley Cups thanks to the Rangers

After failing for years, those moves finally helped the Lightning reach the Stanley Cup milestone. They won the 2020 Cup in the bubble, along with McDonagh, Shattenkirk and Coleman all playing leading roles. Following that, they won it all again in 2021, this time without Shattenkirk.

Related: The 2014 Rangers-Lightning Blockbuster That Reshaped Both Franchises

In total, from 2014 to 2020, seven players who wore the Rangers jersey played directly for the Lightning, while four others who were acquired through draft picks (caps or trades) played at least one game with them. franchise. These 11 players helped make Tampa Bay a champion and serve as a reminder of just how impactful a trade can be.

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