Heart, grit and pure determination are what the “Blue-Seaters” (hardcore Rangers fans in the cheap-seats) know and love about their beloved Captain, Ryan Callahan. Make that ex-captain Ryan Callahan. In what can be only described as shocking (prior to a few weeks ago), the New York Rangers today shipped their 28-year-old leader to the Tampa Bay Lightning, along with two draft-picks for veteran-star Martin St. Louis, just before the NHL Trade Deadline ended.
For those not familiar with this wonderful game called hockey, the St. Louis we’re referring to here is a super-star hockey player, not city that resides in Missouri. In St. Louis, the Rangers upgrade their offense, pure and simple. Over the past three NHL seasons, St. Louis leads all players in scoring and has totaled 29 goals and 32 assists with the Lightning thus far this season (more points than any Ranger). What’s more impressive is he’s done it without all-world player Steven Stamkos at his side because of a broken leg.
While the cagey veteran (St. Louis) is 38-years-old, there is little doubt about the shape he keeps himself in, and what the Rangers will be receiving in him this season and next (as he’s signed through 2014-15 season).
The absolute truth of the matter is the complete change of direction this move indicates for the blue-shirts. Keeping Callahan could have been done. His salary demands came down significantly from his prior asking price, and the Rangers were willing to go six years for $36 million, according to BayNews9. The two sides were very close on the salary. Where the deal fell apart was the “no movement clause” that Callahan requested.
Do Rangers fans feel Callahan wanted to be a Ranger? Yes, to a certain degree as his salary demands were outrageous.
Do Rangers fans feel the Rangers wanted to keep Callahan at any cost? No. Rangers General Manager Glen Sather wants to keep that flexibility in his arsenal.
Putting emotion aside, it was the right move considering his injury history. Such a gritty, defensive minded player is prone to injury. Callahan has missed chunks of seasons in two of his last three (60 games played in 2010-11 and 45 games played last season), according to ESPN.com. Signing Callahan could be a death sentence against the dreaded hard-salary-cap should the injury-trend continue.
The huge doubt the Rangers organization will have to over-come is not the loss of Callahan, but the draft picks that went along with him. They are a young team, with a nice core, that still needs building. One pick that went to Tampa is a guaranteed first rounder in 2015, and the other is a second-rounder in the upcoming 2014 draft (loaded with talent). Okay, so not too bad for one of the best stars in hockey. However if the Rangers make the Eastern Conference Finals this season, that second-rounder turns into a first. Now that’s interesting to think about. Callahan and two first round picks for the 38-year-old St. Louis?
St. Louis is the type of player first-year Ranger Head Coach Alain Vigneault loves. His fast-paced, up-tempo coaching style should suit St. Louis very well. Callahan, while he can fit on any team, doesn't fit that mold.
While it’s only one player exiting and one player entering, it is a big change of direction in play-style.
Looking at all of that, and the market for players earning the type of money Callahan was requesting, making this move is a bitter pill to swallow for “Blue-Seaters,” but the smart one. Thinking about that hard-salary cap that all NHL fans know and love in today’s game, this was a necessary move for their future. Risking the chance that Callahan leaves town at the end of the year with nothing coming back in return was just too much to risk.