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Report: Ryan Callahan’s career in jeopardy due to degenerative back disease

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The Former Rangers’ captain may be forced to retire

Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Rangers Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Earlier tonight, Caley Chelios reported that former New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan may be forced to retire after being diagnosed with a degenerative back disease. According to Andrew Gross and others, the specific diagnosis is a degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine.

Callahan, 34, has been dogged by injuries throughout his career. He played just 137 games over the last three seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, including 52 games last season. In those 52 games, he averaged 11:08 TOI/GP and picked up 17 points. Tampa Bay general manager Julien BriseBois recently told NHL.com that Callahan planned to not only play out his current contract, but also to sign another deal after it. In other words, he had no plans to hang up his skates.

Before tonight’s news broke, there had been speculation about the Lightning buying out the former Rangers captain. Callahan has struggled to live up to the expectations created by the six-year, $34.8 million contract he signed with the Lightning on June 25, 2014. It’s also no secret that the Lightning need to free up some cap space so that they can lock-up emerging franchise forward Brayden Point. Placing Callahan on the LTIR gives them a lot more flexibility.

Callahan wore the “C” on his Rangers’ sweater for 166 regular season games before he was traded on March 5, 2014 in the deal that brought Martin St. Louis to New York. In total, he played 450 games of regular season hockey and 59 games of playoff hockey for the Rangers. Not bad for the 127th pick of the 2004 Draft.

If this is indeed the end of Callahan’s playing career, it’s a bitter one. He became a fan favorite at the Garden because of his relentless work ethic and fearless play. If there was barbed wire on the ice, the New York native would have thrown his body across it to help his teammates. Callahan led by an example from the moment he stepped onto the ice at Madison Square Garden. That drive and fire made him the natural successor to Chris Drury as the team’s captain in 2011.