Really getting into the meat of our countdown of the best Rangers of the Decade. Sitting in at the 4th spot is the 2nd captain in our list and the only defenseman.
#4 Ryan McDonagh
Career as a Ranger: 2010-2018
Numbers as a Blueshirt over the decade: 51 goals, 187 assists for 238 points in 516 games (1.16 Pts/60). 49.78 CF% (-0.49 C/60), 52.58 xGF% (0.26 xG/60). 74.8 GAR, 13.9 WAR.
Best Season as a Ranger: 2013-14: 14 goals, 29 assists for 43 points in 77 games
When the Rangers traded Scott Gomez’s contract during the 2009 offseason, it was mostly seen as a move to clear up cap space to bring in Marian Gaborik as well as get out of the Gomez mistake. The package that Montreal sent to the Rangers included Christopher Higgins, prospect Pavel Valentenko, and the rights to Wiscosin defender, and former 12th overall pick, Ryan McDonagh. At the time, it seemed that McDonagh was something of an afterthought as the big move was getting out of the Gomez contract.
Then he went out and became the best defenseman to suit up for the Rangers since probably Brian Leetch. McDonagh made an impact almost immediately when he got the call to the big show in the 2nd half of the 2010-11 season. The smooth-skating, left-handing shooting defender was a breath of fresh air on a blue line filled the Wade Reddens and Michal Roszivals of the world. McDonagh began his career next to another promising rookie defender in Michael Sauer before Sauer suffered what eneded up being a career ending hit from Dion Phaneuf.
In 2011-12, McDonagh played his first full season in New York and established himself as a defender that the Rangers could build around. He was smart, with and without the puck, a gorgeous skater, and chipped in a fair bit of offense from the blueline. McDonagh was quickly becoming a part of a new core developing in New York and playoff success soon followed. It was also during this time that McDonagh was put next to his long-term defense partner, Dan Girardi. While there were deviations during the course of their Ranger tenures, McDonagh-Girardi was hammered in steel on the blueline throughout the decade.
Over the next few years, McDonagh just kept excelling on the ice. His play improved every season with New York and the 2013-14 season a culmination for McDonagh and the Rangers as he led the team to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years on the back of a career-best season. By the end of that run it was clear what was next for McDonagh and to start the 2014 season, the St. Paul, Minnesota native was named the Rangers captain at just 25 years old taking over from Ryan Callahan.
While McDonagh looked to pick up where he left off, the 2014-15 season saw the Rangers again go on a deep playoff run but were stymied by a lack of offense after Mats Zuccarello took a Ryan McDonagh shot to the side of the head that knocked him out of the postseason. It was also becoming apparent that the effect of playing with Dan Girardi was actively hurting McDonagh’s performance on the ice and this continued well into the end of McDonagh’s tenure in New York.
The end for McDonagh wasn’t the best, as it was marred by injury and the fact that the Rangers announced publicly that they were going to tear down and rebuild. Unfortunately, this meant that McDonagh, who’s contract was expiring at the end of the 2018 season, was dealt at the trade deadline to the Tampa Bay Lightning along with J.T. Miller. It was a bittersweet end to a run that went, more or less, under appreciated for McDonagh as the Rangers still haven’t found a defenseman that could really replace the two-way defender.
Favorite moment as a Ranger: It’s the 2015 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. the Rangers are down 3-1 in the series to the Washington Capitals. It’s overtime and sometimes, you gotta turn to your Captain to rally.