In what promises to be the biggest deal on the NHL's trade deadline day, the Tampa Bay Lightning traded forward Martin St. Louis to the New York Rangers in exchange for forward Ryan Callahan, according to Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports:
Per Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News, the Rangers also received two draft picks and will get a conditional pick contingent upon Callahan re-signing with the Lightning:
Seth Rothman of InsideHockey.com provides Callahan's reaction:
Also, the 2014 second-round pick heading to Tampa becomes a first if the Rangers reach the conference finals this season, according to TSN.
Darren Dreger adds:
Such a trade was basically unthinkable as recently as a month ago, but St. Louis had apparently become disgruntled. According to Arthur Staple of Newsday, the issues began when the Lightning captain was initially snubbed from the Canadian Olympic hockey team.
Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman served in the same role for Team Canada, and he decided against putting St. Louis on the original roster. St. Louis did end up winning a gold medal for Canada in Sochi, Russia, after replacing injured Lightning teammate Steven Stamkos, but apparently the damage had already been done.
Yzerman confirmed that St. Louis asked for a trade in a news release from the team:
We'd like to thank Marty for everything he has done on and off the ice during his outstanding 13-year career in Tampa Bay. He has been one of the greatest players in the organization's history but in the end we honored his request today. We wish him and his family the best of luck as he continues his career in New York.
Although St. Louis didn't confirm reports of his dissatisfaction with the Lightning, he certainly didn't make any attempt to deny them when questions were raised on Feb. 26, according to Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times:
The only thing I can say about that is I've had conversations with Steve (Yzerman) on my future here. Out of respect for my teammates I think that's all I'm going to say about that. I'm not going to get into answering this question every day. I've had conversations with Steve about my future here. Those conversations are between me and Steve.
The possibility of the Rangers dealing their captain to get Callahan was far more obvious from the start of the season. With Callahan set to hit free agency this offseason, New York had to decide between re-signing him, trading him or risking losing him for nothing.
Per ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, Callahan lowered his contract demands prior to the trade, but the Rangers were still unwilling to make such a large financial commitment:
Despite constant rumors swirling around him, Callahan couldn't have handled the situation any better than he did. Even with contract negotiations going nowhere, the Rangers captain expressed a desire to remain in the Big Apple after returning from Sochi, per Zach Braziller of the New York Post:
It's the same as when I left: This is where I want to be. I'm going to control what I can control, and that mainly is what I do on the ice, and that's not going to change ... I think I'm in a good spot. My (mind-set) coming back into here is just continue to try to do what I can to help the team win.
Unfortunately for Callahan and the Rangers, the two sides were unable to reach an agreement, so an extremely tough decision had to be made.
Although St. Louis is 38 years of age, New York has coveted him for quite some time, and he is an ideal return for the Rangers in the short term, according to David Pagnotta of TheFourthPeriod.com:
Not surprisingly, it wasn't very difficult for the Lightning to find a suitor for St. Louis. Although he is getting up there in age, he hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. Also, per CapGeek.com, St. Louis becomes an unrestricted free agent after next season, so no long-term investment needed to be made.
St. Louis is enjoying another fantastic season at a nearly point-per-game pace after winning the Art Ross Trophy for the second time in his career last season. He has essentially done it all over the years, winning the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 2003-04 after winning the Stanley Cup that same season.
Per Mike Kelly of NHL.com, trading a player of St. Louis' caliber is extremely rare:
The Rangers currently hold the third and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference's Metropolitan Division, and it's tough to argue with the fact that St. Louis makes them better right now.
It will also be interesting to see what type of impact Callahan has on the Lightning, who are third in the Atlantic Division.
From an intangible perspective, it can be argued that there is nobody better than Callahan. At the same time, though, that isn't something that can be measured. He has never had more than 54 points in a season, and even though he is just 28 years of age, his reckless style of play makes him a significant injury concern.
With all of that said, however, there are few players in the league who are respected by their teammates as much as Callahan, and that is a huge reason why he'll be successful moving forward.
Callahan will help Tampa in terms of grit and determination right now, but TSN's Bob McKenzie believes that the Lightning have no intention of re-signing him.
Because of that, the Lightning were able to get two draft picks in the deal, which evens things up to a certain extent. There is little doubt that St. Louis is the best overall player in the deal, but there are other factors at work as well.
Ultimately, both players needed a change of scenery and both teams needed to be shaken up. The Rangers and Lightning are in the thick of the playoff race, and this trade will unquestionably make a major impact on their pursuit of the Stanley Cup.
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