Lightning bring Ryan McDonagh back in stunner. Does this make the Bolts a contender?

The Lightning made a deal on Wednesday that saw Ryan McDonagh make his return to Tampa Bay after two years in Nashville. We examine if the return of the Mac Truck will be enough to get the Bolts back to the Stanley Cup Final.
2021 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five
2021 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five / Mike Ehrmann/GettyImages

There was plenty of talk going into the offseason for the Lightning that their main area of concern was on defense. Tampa wasted no time this past Wednesday by bringing back Ryan McDonagh via trade with Nashville.

The Lightning were plagued all season, and playoffs, by defensive issues. Along with poor play, they also saw their blueliners struck down with injuries. The Lightning defensive core missed a collective 70 games. Throughout this season of injuries and bad play, the mantra of the Tampa Bay faithful has constantly been "The McDonagh trade was a mistake!" A mistake it was as there was a visible hole left when McDonagh departed for Nashville two summers ago.

Now that the dust has settled and we are four days removed from the bombshell trade, one can't help but wonder where this leaves Tampa for next season. The Lightning go into the 2024 offseason with seven players who are set to become unrestricted free agents. The most notable of which will be Steven Stamkos. It doesnt look like we'll be hearing about a new contract between the two parties so stay tooned.

Even with the unknown of what lies ahead of the Bolts this summer, we still wonder if Ryan McDonagh will be the one to take the Lightning back to the promised land. Ryan Mcdonagh helped lead two Stanley Cup-winning teams, and another Bolts team to a third consecutive Cup Final. The importance and leadership cannot be understated when it comes to what Ryan McDonagh brings when wearing the white and blue.

So does Ryan McDonagh push the Lightning back into the conversation of Stanley Cup contenders? The answer is unfortunately no.....for now. While the answer might disappoint some Lightning fans, rest assured that the return of McDonagh does push the Bolts toward the border of Pretenders and Contenders. As mentioned before, while McDonagh is a much needed addition to the roster, whether or not the Lightning get back to the NHL's big dance is ultimately dependent on the events that will transpire this summer.