There are very few scenarios in professional sports where the fans will be enthused with the idea of their favorite team trading their captain. Perhaps a horrible contract, or a player that hates puppies (seriously, how can you hate puppies) but the captain is nearly always the leader on and off the ice, and the one fans support endlessly.
That being said, a captain for a captain trade is not only unlikely, but extremely rarely happened in the history of the major sports. The Rangers and the Lightning both likely did not want to change that piece of history, but a unique set of circumstances forced both of their hands.
•Blueshirt BanterIt was a night that started in cheers, and ended in boos. Only one of those sentiments, though, was truly the work of Martin St. Louis. A look at his first game as a Ranger.
For the Lightning, Martin St. Louis wanted out, and only wanted out to New York. The Lightning could have continued on with the disgruntled winger and forced him to play angry, but that could have been a serious detriment in the locker room for a probable playoff team. Instead, they worked out a deal with the Rangers, and got as much as the possibly could in return.
The Rangers, on the other hand, are seen by many as making an unnecessary trade. A lot of fans would have liked to have seen Ryan Callahan get a contract extension, given that the Rangers have given so many in the past to even worse players. What those fans are failing to understand is that Ryan Callahan is not worth the $6+million a season over six years. Something he wanted from the Rangers, and will want from teams in the off-season.
David Clarkson set an unfortunate market when he signed his 7 year $36.75 million deal this past off-season, and some team will likely pay Callahan the same. That team will benefit greatly from Callahan's two-way hockey expertise, and ability to lead his team on and off the ice. However, for what Callahan does bring, he does not bring enough to deserve $6-million over six years. The argument can be made that NHL contracts are increasing in dollar value with each passing season, so Callahan could deserve the $1 million more than his play suggests per season. However, Callahan fails to stay on the ice enough to deserve any kind of a long term deal, and his "leave it all out there" style of hockey invites injuries on a nightly basis, another factor that must be considered when extending him.
It is more that the Rangers do not need what Callahan brings to the table, at least not at that price. The Rangers are a team that has capable players on the penalty kill to replace Callahan, in addition to the already formidable penalty killing team in place. Replacing one player on the penalty kill is a non-issue for this team. In the same token, the Rangers are a defensively responsible team, allowing only the eighth most even strength goals in the NHL, ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, and San Jose Sharks, among others. Again, Callahan did help in that regard, but the Rangers have an abundance of defensively responsible forwards. The Blueshirts did fine when Callahan was out with injuries, and will continue to do fine with St. Louis, who is not a liability defensively himself.
Most importantly, the Rangers are suffering from a serious lack of scoring. In terms of even strength goals for, the Rangers rank an abysmal 23rd in the NHL, with only 114 goals. Ryan Callahan has six even strength goals, ranking him 228th in the NHL, behind players such as David Jones, Rob Klinkhammer, and Riley Nash. Martin St. Louis, on the other hand, ranks tied for 10th in the NHL (with Sidney Crosby and Tyler Seguin, not bad company) with 19 even strength goals. While one player won't make all the difference, giving up the 228th ranked player for the 10th ranked player is a serious upgrade, and a much needed one.
The draft picks are an unfortunate loss, but the Rangers are in win-now mode, after a series of disappointing exists from the post-season. If the Rangers go as far as the team and the fans expect them to in the playoffs, the pick will likely be in the mid to late twenties, which is nothing too bad to give up. To improve you must be willing to pay the a price, and giving up Callahan and two draft picks, with the potential to get one back if Callahan re-signs in Tampa Bay, is a fair trade.
The Rangers upgraded where they needed to, and avoided guaranteeing a lot of money over too many years to a player that they frankly do not need anywhere near as much as the player they acquired. Callahan will be sorely missed in the locker room and by the fans, but again, this team has more than enough veterans and players that are willing to speak up and lead. Winning teams do not win games by being more likable, or grittier. They win games by being well-rounded, and the Rangers took a large step towards being a winning team with the trade for Martin St. Louis.