The New York Rangers are in the midst of their first run at the Stanley Cup in 20 years, and one of the franchise's most notable players is sitting at home on his couch in Rochester. Ryan Callahan, an eight-year veteran and the Blueshirts' former team captain, was traded on March 5 because he priced himself out of New York, and there's a good chance he will be heading to free agency on July 1.
Callahan is in a position where he can make a ton of money, but will his free agency plans change after watching the Rangers' Cup run?
The former Blueshirts captain initially wanted seven years at $7 million a season, according to USA Today Sports, and that was way too rich for the Rangers. His demands softened slightly, but ultimately he was dealt for Marty St. Louis, a player who has played a huge role in the Blueshirts' Cup run.
Callahan is now in an interesting position where he is wondering, "What if?", but in a few weeks he will have to make a decision for his immediate future.
This offseason there are a number of teams, such as the Buffalo Sabres, that will have enough cap space to splurge for the rugged, energetic winger, but they are a team that isn't close to contending for a Stanley Cup.
Back in February, beat writer Larry Brooks of the New York Post wrote that the Sabres would be willing to meet Callahan's demands, and there has been nothing to suggest that they wouldn't pay him now.
Beyond that, though Buffalo is believed willing to meet Callahan’s asking price of a seven-year deal worth at least $42 million that would probably come with the club captaincy—think of it as the reverse Chris Drury—the 30th-overall Sabres are not involved in the current trade talks.
Given the Rangers' success, it is very possible that Callahan is kicking himself for pricing himself off the roster, and he could opt to sign a deal with a contender that is short term—two to three years—and in the $5 to $5.5 million range.
We have seen first hand that it is very easy for a player in a weak UFA market to sign a max deal to come home (cough, cough, David Clarkson, cough), but it doesn't always pan out. If Callahan's primary goal is to make money, he will have no problem finding a team.
He was an effective player for the Rangers before injuries caught up with him, and his showing with the Tampa Bay Lightning during the regular season showed that he can still be an offensive player.
In a top-six role he can contribute 20 goals and 45 to 50 points, and he will also be a top-notch penalty killer and shot blocker. His style of play is very taxing physically, and for that reason it makes the most sense for interested teams to sign him on a short-term deal.
Callahan may want to insure his future, but odds are he would rather contend for a Cup than collect millions on the roster of a mediocre team that is hitting the links in mid-April. For that reason, Callahan could change his plan to include pricing himself modestly for a contender, instead of hitting the jackpot with a lottery team.
Teams that are contenders and that have cap space include the St. Louis Blues, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins, and each would be a good fit for a physical two-way scorer like Callahan.
There is no telling what Callahan will do come July 1. No one would fault the 29-year-old winger from cashing in, because the NHL is a place where careers can end after taking one bad hit. If Callahan wants to leave a legacy, he would be wise to lower his demands and sign with a contender, but the market that is unrestricted free agency may end up being too tempting to take a discount.