For many, the news came as a surprise. How could the Rangers, a major-market team currently playing positive hockey, trade their captain ahead of what is sure to be a battle royale that will determine which Metropolitan Division clubs qualify for the playoffs?
The haters, too, saw it as an excuse to come out of the woodwork and suggest the Rangers organization and fans have no loyalty and are willing to move any player, no matter their position on the team, the second their game dropped, in exchange for a quick fix.
Many would be quick to bring up the Marian Gaborik trade last spring, or the Rick Nash trade the summer before that saw the Rangers deal two homegrown forwards in Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov.
But they quickly forget that the Rangers shed a massive contract when they dealt Gaborik—not to mention he’s a walking piece of glass—and in the Nash trade, the Rangers moved a couple of utility forwards for Rick Nash. Loyalty, shmoyalty; the Rangers acquired the best player in the trade, and that’s where the conversation ends.
And just as the Rangers had concrete reasons to make those two moves, general manager Glen Sather has even better reasons to trade Callahan, if it should come to that.
If you make a quick visit over to CapGeek, you’ll notice Sather and the Rangers have some very important decisions to make. Callahan, Dan Girardi, Benoit Pouliot, Brian Boyle, Dominic Moore, Daniel Carcillo and Anton Stralman are all unrestricted free agents (UFAs). In addition, Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, Justin Falk and John Moore are all restricted free agents (RFAs).
Some quick math tells us that that’s more than half of the Rangers’ current roster.
Obviously, signing most of those players won’t be a problem, but the Rangers will be forced to make big decisions when it comes to Callahan and Girardi.
When you take into account the Brad Richards situation, you’ll find that retaining Richards and signing both Callahan and Girardi is a non-option. And in my personal opinion, Sather decides not to buy out Richards. The way the situation has been handled up until this point, plus the reemergence of Richards, the Alain VIgnuealt factor and the fact that the Rangers are short on talent down the middle, all point to Richards remaining a Blueshirt.
So, one of Callahan or Girardi must go.
Up until this point, we’re not entirely sure about the specifics regarding Girardi and what he is looking to negotiate. It’s believed, via SNY Rangers, that he may be seeking a longer-term deal than the Rangers are interested in offering, but other than that, we’re in the dark.
Callahan’s negotiations, on the other hand, have been very public. It’s been reported by TSN that the right winger is seeking between $6.5 million and $7 million over seven years.
This is, frankly, absurd. Callahan has never registered more than 54 points in a season. He’s never scored more than 30 goals, either. Yet he feels he should be paid more than the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, both Henrik and Daniel Sedin, and Martin St. Louis.
Does Callahan bring more to the table than just offense? Absolutely. He’s a heart and soul guy who kills penalties, protects his teammates and isn’t afraid to sacrifice his body.
But what he also brings to the table is a big ol' bag of injuries.
Cally has never played a full NHL season. He’s hurt at least once every year. And you’d expect that from someone who plays in the way Callahan does. But do you really think a team that’s already strapped for cash is going to pay a player with an average skill set and an injury history top dollar?
The Rangers simply cannot. But other teams can.
If you haven’t noticed, top-end talent never hits free agency in the NHL anymore. That’s because the best players are drafted high by a team and locked up for a long, long time. As a result, when an above-average player (i.e. Brad Richards, Marian Hossa), or even just a mildly effective player (David Clarkson, I’m looking at you) hits free agency, he's sorely overpaid.
Callahan isn’t stupid. He and his agent know this. So they tell the Rangers: "Pay up, or we look elsewhere."
Well, good riddance.
Except it’s not up to me. It’s not up to you either. It’s up to Slats and the rest of the Rangers’ brass, as well as Callahan and his camp, to decide what happens next.
But it’s late in the game. The Rangers would like to have this whole situation resolved before the February 7 deadline because they don't want to risk injury to Callahan at the Olympics.
But Larry Brooks of the New York Post reported Thursday that the Rangers and Callahan were no closer on a deal, and that he felt that the chances of the captain being traded before the roster freeze were slim.
This tells me that the Rangers haven’t found a deal for Callahan they like.
There were rumblings about the St. Louis Blues offering up Chris Stewart for Cally, via Darren Dreger of TSN, and although Stewart has an additional year left on his contract, the move as a straight swap does not favor the Rangers. For it to be worth it, a second piece would have to come to New York along with Stewart.
Whether or not St. Louis is interested in that is unclear, but considering Callahan’s pending UFA status, you’d have to imagine the Blues would be reluctant.
So, the question again is, should the Rangers trade Callahan before the roster freeze? Yes, they should.
But will they? Doesn’t look like it.
They're simply running out of time, and Brooks’ information is reliable. If he feels there is little chance a deal goes down, I believe him.
But the Rangers are taking a big risk here. Callahan needs to be moved, because the last thing they need, with the seemingly eternal contracts of Richards and Henrik Lundqvist already on the books, is another aging veteran potentially seeing out the remaining years of his contract in a wheelchair.