Ryan Callahan spent eight years with the New York Rangers organization before he was dealt to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the trade deadline for future Hall of Famer Martin St. Louis. In the immediate aftermath of the trade, many fans were furious. Callahan is a fan favorite, and according to a recent report, his jersey is one of the most popular in the league (h/t Deadspin).
He also went on a tear when he joined the Lightning, and his 11 points in 20 games were better than the eight points in 19 games that St. Louis contributed for the Rangers. The end of the regular season meant the start of the playoffs, however, and thus far through the postseason, the trade looks a little bit better for the Rangers.
Callahan went pointless against the Montreal Canadiens during their sweep of the Lightning, and thus far St. Louis is leading in ways Callahan never could. Yes, the Rangers are still sans their draft picks no matter what, but if St. Louis delivers the Rangers a Cup this year or next, it will be well worth it.
In the playoffs, the teams with a blend of talent and experience usually go far.
In addition to big names such as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the Chicago Blackhawks had a player like St. Louis in Marian Hossa last year, and in addition to big names like Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron etc., the Boston Bruins had Mark Recchi in 2011.
Both players were grizzled vets and prolific scorers who could put a team on their back at one point or another. They knew how to take it to a higher gear, and they could always be counted on to provide leadership for younger players.
During their Cup-winning years, each brought offense—Recchi with 14 points in 25 games and Hossa with 31 points in 44 games during the Blackhawks' two cup wins—and leadership to the table.
In many ways, the acquisition of St. Louis gave the Rangers something that two out of the last three Stanley Cup winners had. Like the two aforementioned players, St. Louis is a veteran who can still contribute in a big way offensively, and in the leadership department.
Yes, the Rangers already have Brad Richards, but they needed another winner in the dressing room, and a player who could score at an elite level. Richards' play has dropped off since joining the Rangers, so it was wise of the team to bring in a new face so that the pressure of being the sole Cup veteran was off his shoulders.
Although Callahan was a great leader, defensive player and team guy, St. Louis is more valuable to this team than Callahan ever could be.
Who would you rather have on this team?
The style that Alain Vigneault is preaching doesn't mesh with Callahan's grit-and-grind demeanor, and for that reason the Blueshirts' former captain became a third-line player under Vigneault. Callahan was the right guy for a team run by John Tortorella, but this season proved he wasn't the right fit for AV.
Dealing him made sense, as the Blueshirts were able to gain an asset in return, and there was no way they were going to re-sign him at his demands.
St. Louis may not have replicated Callahan's production upon arriving in New York, but right now he is living up to his reputation. St. Louis has the ability to carry a team, and he's done that in the playoffs thus far.
St. Louis has averaged over a point per game throughout his career in the playoffs, and thus far he has five points in three games. He scored a huge goal in Game 3, and he's contributed key assists throughout the series to date.
While his offensive contributions have been great, his experience and leadership abilities have really helped the Rangers.
Vigneault touched upon that in a conference call held with the media (via Katie Strang of ESPN New York), and he reinforced the impact St. Louis has had even when he hasn't scored.
Playoffs is another season. I don’t know how he sees it, but I do think, prior to the playoffs, even though Marty wasn’t on the score sheet as much as everybody anticipated, he was still contributing. ... That’s why our record was so good. He’s a big part of our group — obviously his leadership is helping us as we try to move forward — and we expect him to continue to play the way he is right now.
St. Louis' voice carries a significant amount of gravitas in the locker room, and possibly more than Callahan's ever could. He is a 15-year veteran with a Stanley Cup ring, a two-time Art Ross winner, a one-time Hart Trophy winner as league MVP and a one-time Pearson Trophy winner as the NHLPA's most outstanding player.
This is no knock against Callahan, as he simply wasn't that type of player—but the problem for the Rangers was that they needed that type of player. They got that guy in St. Louis, and right now you can't look at the cost.
At this point in time, the trade is, was and will remain a gamble.
It is still very early in the playoffs, but St. Louis is living up to his reputation and setting the tone for the Rangers. He will need to sustain his current level of play as the playoffs continue, and history suggests that it shouldn't be a problem.
Callahan was a great Ranger, and he will be remembered in a positive way. He did a lot of great things for the team, but his effectiveness ran out. St. Louis has stepped in and replaced the leadership that was lost, and he has added elite-level scoring.
Will St. Louis prove to be the final piece the Rangers need to win the Stanley Cup? Perhaps, but right now fans should be happy he is on the team—and that it only cost the franchise a departing free agent (Callahan) and some draft picks that may or may not pan out.
Sometimes it is hard for fans to live in the moment, but there isn't a better time to do so than the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Stats are via NHL.com.