Ryan Callahan is everything you want in a captain. He can score, plays solid two way hockey, and has the perfect intangibles that make him a perfect player that leads by example. Unfortunately, part of his "lay it all out there" style of hockey, includes him risking injury every night. The idea that Callahan has been injured often in the past is silly, as he missed an average of only 5.4 games a season over the last five seasons going into this one, not including playoff games.
Unfortunately, that's not all there is to the Ryan Callahan story. Callahan will be 29 years old before the season ends, and has already missed 16 games this season. With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Callahan is asking for a seven year extension, which given the David Clarkson contract, actually is not too far from market value. That being said, Callahan does play in a style that will likely lead to more injuries, especially as he ages, and his body wears down. Callahan is asking for $6 million per season, which would mean the Rangers would be paying a 35 year old Callahan $6M to throw his body around and pray nothing and nobody hurts him.
Callahan's style is the type that makes him a perfect fit for a team that can afford to take the risk. The Rangers had a need for his style of play in the past, especially with John Tortorella's "block everything in sight" coaching mentality. With Alain Vigneault as Head Coach, the Rangers are more focused on moving the puck, and offensive minded hockey. In no way am I saying that Callahan cannot be an offensive-minded player, but his hockey mentality is more geared towards using his body and doing the dirty work for his team.
The Rangers have enough players to fill the Callahan role of on the ice and off the ice leadership. Players like Brian Boyle are stepping up and blocking more shots, while Chris Kreider has taken charge this season, lessening the need for a winger like Callahan on the top lines. The problem the Rangers have is a lack of scoring, something they can work on filling by trading Callahan.
If the Rangers are able to work out a trade in which Callahan signs an extension with the team he is traded to, there could be a very solid package coming in return for him. A rumor that has been floating around is Chris Stewart for Callahan, which by itself is not a fair deal. However, if the Blues throw in a first round pick, it would be a steal for the Rangers, or a second round pick would make it a fair trade for both teams.
Any trade of Ryan Callahan should be for a player that can help the Rangers currently, as I believe that they are a solid enough team to make a run this season. If the Rangers wanted to get creative, they could trade Callahan for picks, then package those picks with prospects and/or their own picks in a deal for Evander Kane.
Most of all, the deal should come down to what has more value to the Rangers: Ryan Callahan, or the return for Ryan Callahan. I, for one, am thrilled that the Rangers have set a pre-Olympics deadline on a possible deal, as it allows for maximum possible return if they do trade him. If the Rangers can get Callahan to agree to a five year deal, Callahan is still a solid part and captain of the team, so it's certainly worth considering. However, if Callahan remains adamant about seven years, which he can likely get elsewhere, there is more value in trading him for a younger scorer, and using the extra cash to go after another player, like Paul Stastny.
If the Rangers were to trade Callahan to the Blues for Stewart and a first round pick, for example, they can then sign Stastny in the off-season, and reunite Stewart and Stastny, a pair that resulted in a career high 28 goals for Stewart in Colorado. Even if the Rangers can't get Stastny, they gained a first round pick, and a lower salary, higher scoring winger in Stewart.
Trading the captain is a horribly difficult decision, but what's most important is getting the most value out of each player on the roster. If there is more value in trading Callahan than keeping him, I want the Rangers to deal him as soon as possible. I will certainly remain a fan of Callahan's, and will be disappointed to see him go, but hockey is about winning, not rooting for specific players.