An unexpected name has turned up amongst NHL trade rumors, New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan. According to a report on ESPN.com, Callahan’s name has been floated out of fear that the Rangers couldn’t lock up their captain with a contract extension before he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
For the Rangers to even consider moving Callahan is baffling. Callahan, who will be a member of the men’s U.S. Olympic hockey team for the second team this year, is the heart and soul of the franchise.
He’s a New York native, and he was a Rangers draft pick, so he’s homegrown. He turns 29 this year, right in the heart of his prime. He’s a classic do-everything over-achiever, serving as a stellar penalty killer, and creating shifts in momentum and sparks in energy by leveling big hits, blocking shots and creating turnovers.
He’s always making a play, whether it gets tallied on the score sheet or not, and you could never try to accuse him of being selfish, unmotivated, or unfocused. In other words, he’s the perfect captain, and the ideal leader for a team.
In all likelihood, whomever the undisclosed sources are within the Rangers office, they are merely letting it be known that they won’t be bulled over in negotiations. That they won’t succumb to a mega-deal that they don’t feel is warranted because Callahan has all of the leverage.
Be that as it may, it still seems unsightly for the franchise, and floating your captain on the trade market could easily backfire in the locker room. Of course, the Rangers wouldn’t take that risk, either. They must be sure that even in such circumstances, their leader and captain, the ideal team-first hockey player, wouldn’t let such talk become a point of malcontent or turmoil. Maybe that speaks as much to Callahan’s strength as a captain than anything else.
Captains Get Traded in the NHL
As baffling as the Callahan trade rumors are, there’s definitely a history of captains being traded in the NHL, including quite recently. Before this season, the New York Islanders traded captain Mark Streit, a pending free agent, for a prospect and a draft pick. At the trade deadline last season, the Buffalo Sabres traded captain Jason Pominville for a loftier haul from the Minnesota Wild.
Moving back farther, there have been much more significant trades of NHL captains as well. None other than The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, was infamously traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988.
The Boston Bruins, somewhat mercifully, traded Ray Bourque to the Colorado Avalanche in 2000 so he could pursue a Stanley Cup. The Bruins then traded away another captain just a few years later, when they moved Joe Thornton to the San Jose Sharks after hitting a wall in the playoffs.
The only circumstance which “Captain Cally” shares with any of the above players is his looming free agency. Otherwise, he’s not a late-career legend looking to chase a championship, he’s not unhappy, he doesn’t have a track record of subpar performance in big moments, and nor is he the sole star on an otherwise moribund team.
I highly doubt Callahan would be seeking the type of contract that would handcuff the franchise and prevent them from improving in other areas. Yes, the Rangers already locked up Henrik Lundqvist to a huge deal, but they have to do the same here — pony up the cash and keep Callahan around.
Beloved by fans and teammates, and an integral part of the franchise’s turnaround after missing the playoffs for seven straight seasons, Callahan should be a Rangers lifer.
*This article was first published on Yahoo Sports on January 29, 2014