Rangers’ top-pair defenseman Ryan McDonagh has agreed to a KHL deal with HC Barys Astana and will be leaving for the Kazakhstan capital tonight at 9.
McDonagh becomes the first Ranger to sign with the Russian league during the NHL lockout, though Rick Nash is playing in the Swiss League, Carl Hagelin has signed in Sweden and Henrik Lundqvist appears headed home to Frolunda in the near future.
McDonagh said though he’s still optimistic the NHL and NHLPA can solve their differences - talks resume Wednesday - he felt like this was the right time to make the move overseas as fewer and fewer Rangers are available for player-organized skates during the lockout.
“The situation here is we had a solid group in the beginning but one guy goes to play, a couple of guys go home who don’t have places here to stay. The numbers dwindle,” McDonagh said. “Obviously when I go to the rink, I go hard but I don’t know if I’m improving as this dragged along here. I felt like the opportunity was there for me to go. At the beginning, nobody knew how long this was going to stretch. it really came down to improving as a player and being the best I can be.
“I’m still optimistic that a deal will get done in a short amount of time,” McDonagh added. “But, until then, if I can get a couple of games or more in, that will help me be more ready. That’s my whole mindset, to give myself the best chance to improve individually so when I’m able to put the Ranger jersey back on, I can be in the best shape possible.”