The Ryan Callahan saga finally drew to a close yesterday in dramatic fashion. Boomer Esiason’s report from two weeks ago proved true as the Blueshirts dealt their captain, a 2015 first-round pick and a conditional 2014 second-round pick to the Lightning for Martin St. Louis. Despite plenty of rumors, the move came as quite a shock. It seemed like Callahan was inching closer to an extension with New York and that Tampa Bay was intent on hanging onto St. Louis until the offseason, but the deal quickly became a reality on Wednesday. There’s a lot to cover here, so let’s get to it.
– Even though we started discussing this possibility a long time ago, it was impossible to prepare for a Callahan trade. It will be very difficult to see him in another uniform. Callahan’s contract demands were much too high, but he was the heart and soul of this team for years and beloved by Rangers fans. It’s a real shame it had to come to this.
– That said, St. Louis and Callahan are on different levels as players. Callahan has exhibited more skill than many give him credit for, but he’s still really a second-line winger (and maybe a third-liner before long). St. Louis, on the other hand, is one of the elite players in the world, even as a 38-year-old. He led the league in scoring last season and is having another great year. Since Callahan entered the league, he has put up 254 points, while St. Louis has notched 622. It’s no contest. So despite how great Callahan was, you can’t help but be happy with the acquisition of St. Louis.
– Of course, bringing in another aging superstar reeks of an early 2000s Sather move. Sather has done a much better job in recent years, but it’s impossible to ignore that. Still, St. Louis isn’t like most 38 year olds in the NHL. He’s still in peak physical condition, has missed fewer games (seven) since 2002-2003 than Callahan has just this season, and he’s really gotten better with age. St. Louis absolutely has a couple more good years in him.
– Which brings us to St. Louis’ contract. He’ll be much cheaper next year than Callahan would have been, and he’s really a discount for his level of production. You have to figure that assuming St. Louis stays healthy and has a solid season, he’ll re-sign with the Rangers quickly and quietly next summer given that he forced his way to New York to play out his career in the first place. Getting say, four more quality seasons out of St. Louis (I think he has that in him) could make this deal look a lot more lopsided in New York’s favor.
– Other than nostalgia for Callahan and St. Louis’ age, the other major concern of the Blueshirt faithful was the two added draft picks to sweeten the pot. Sather himself admitted to being a little concerned about parting with the selections, especially after missing out on the first and second rounds last year. The Hockey News ranked the Rangers 30th in its “Future Watch” issue this week – which is inaccurate – but the team’s prospect pipeline has dried up a bit. Luckily, it looks like the Blueshirts might have hit on each of their third-round choices last season, but it will be crucial to continue drafting well with limited selections over the next two seasons. One thing to watch – the Rangers have plenty of other free agents that they might not retain this summer – don’t be surprised to see the club attempt to trade some of their rights prior to the draft to recoup a pick or two.
– After all the excitement of the deadline had passed, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported that Sather also had a deal set up with San Jose to fall back on if the St. Louis blockbuster didn’t work out. Sather acknowledged as much, and admitted that the deal with the Sharks was more future-oriented. I’m extremely curious to find out what the terms of that swap might have been. In looking at the Sharks’ roster, it really doesn’t seem like there’s much of a fit with young NHL players. It sounds like dealing Callahan to San Jose might have yielded prospects and draft picks. Trading the captain is a franchise-altering move no matter which way you slice it, but if GM Steve Yzerman had held onto St. Louis, the Rangers franchise might have gone in a very different direction yesterday.
– There’s no doubt that the Rangers are a better team now than they were entering the day. I think I’ve been in the minority, but I felt pretty good about New York’s chances in the Eastern Conference before the trade. Now, I feel even better. They’re hardly the favorite to top Pittsburgh or Boston and the Western Conference is loaded with top teams, but the Rangers have once again put themselves in the conversation on contenders.