EDINA, Minn. -- Ryan McDonagh isn't used to having such a long offseason, and the Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman vows to do all he can to ensure he doesn't go through one this lengthy again.
The Lightning were expected to make a run for the Stanley Cup last season after tying an NHL record with 62 wins but were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round.
McDonagh said he learned a lot from watching the St. Louis Blues on the way to their first Cup title, particularly how well they worked together, and said it should be a lesson for Tampa Bay.
"I work every day to be as good as I can be, so you try watch and learn and see what it takes," McDonagh said Wednesday during a break at Da Beauty League, a 3-on-3 summer league for NHL players with ties to Minnesota. "The Blues really played as a team, that was the one thing that stood out. Not that we weren't, but we need to be even stronger as a team there. We've got skill, we've got speed, a lot of talent; if we can work as a team, that'd be a nice fourth thing to add to our group.
McDonagh said it took awhile to try to move forward after the Lightning's early exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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"It was devastating. It's a devastating feeling for sure," he said. "All you can do is try and look at the summer and look at how you can approach it individually and get back for [training] camp and start working together as a team.
"I'm just trying to take advantage of [the long offseason]. That's all you can really do. The first few weeks you reflect on things, obviously you talk about things with teammates and coaches before you leave for the summer. But now that it's in the rearview mirror, you just try and use the little bit longer summer to improve and get your body where it needs to be come regular season time … and get this team where it needs to be."
The Lightning will bring back the majority of the roster from last season. They signed goalie Curtis McElhinney (two-year contract) and defensemen Luke Schenn (one-year contract) and Luke Witkowski (two-year contract) on July 1.
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Tampa Bay traded forward J.T. Miller, who was acquired with McDonagh in a trade from the New York Rangers on Feb. 26, 2018, to the Vancouver Canucks for goalie Marek Mazanec and draft picks June 22. Defenseman Anton Stralman signed with the Florida Panthers on July 1, defenseman Dan Girardi is an unrestricted free agent who will not return, and senior adviser Steve Yzerman resigned and became general manager of the Detroit Red Wings on April 19.
"We didn't make too many changes," said McDonagh, who had an NHL career-high 46 points (nine goals, 37 assists) in 82 games last season, his ninth in the League. "We put up the results we did in the regular season. I think guys had great years, career years … so hopefully we can just focus on getting that big one at the end of the road."