NEW YORK – Ryan Callahan told the media last week he doesn’t want to talk about the trade rumors circulating around him anymore.
His play on Tuesday did all the talking.
Callahan scored a pair of first-period goals, his second multi-goal game of the season and 16th of his career. It came in the Rangers dominating 5-1 win over the Avalanche (36-15-5, 77 pts, 3rd in Central) at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers (31-23-3, 65 pts, 2nd in Metropolitan) have put the full-court press on the 27th captain in franchise history, who will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Reports in multiple media outlets – likely fed from the team’s front office – have Callahan’s demands at a too-high seven years for $42 million, while the team is believed to be comfortable offering its captain five years.
“I try not to bring that business to the rink,” Callahan said of the storm surrounding him. “I try to concentrate on the Rangers, and what we’re doing here, and trying to get two points. That’s my main focus.”
“He wants to contribute. It’s not easy going through these things,” said Brad Richards, who assisted on Callahan’s second goal and added a third-period tally. “It’s part of the world we live in now, which sometimes is fortunate and a lot of times is all good stuff–meaning financially we’re lucky to do what we do and do that stuff. It is also part of the business sometimes and it’s unfortunate when you have to go through it.”
Included in the full-court media storm is the apparent desire by Rangers general manager Glen Sather to have Callahan either re-signed or, if they can’t come to an agreement, traded by the Olympic roster freeze this Friday. The NHL’s in-season trade deadline is March 5, a week after the Olympic break ends.
“I think Ryan’s been playing real hard since the first game he played with us,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. “The captain of this team, he prepares himself real well, he competes every shift he’s on the ice. Tonight was just one of those nights he did exactly the same thing, except he was able to finish a couple of great set-ups by his linemates.”
Without question, the team is hoping Callahan will be spooked by the trade rumors, and lower his demands so he can stay with the only franchise he’s ever known.
For his part, Callahan’s camp has stayed mostly silent. He appears to want to remain with the Rangers, but the question remains whether he’s prepared to call Sather’s bluff.
“Throughout all of this, he’s kept his focus on what’s important, and that’s playing the game,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who made 27 saves to improve to 9-2-0 in his last 11 games. “We all know what’s going on. It’s obviously an important time for him with his contract and everything. He’s focused on playing the game, and we need that.”
Callahan, if he’s indeed on the trade block, becomes perhaps the most sought-after available player on the market. But unless he signs an extension after a trade is consummated, he would be a six-week rental. His status as an unrestricted free agent – the reason the Rangers may be thinking of trading him – is also the reason other teams may have a tough time giving up fair market value for the Rangers’ heart-and-soul.
And, perhaps, that’s the biggest reason Callahan is likely to still be with the Rangers on March 6. But until then, the franchise will continue exploring all options.
As for Callahan, he’s just happy to be contributing. He doesn’t have to talk about it. Well, he does. Tuesday night, he did all his talking in front of 18,006 of his closest friends.
“That’s where I want to be, on the ice playing for the New York Rangers,” Callahan said. “It’s nights like this that I enjoy.”
The Rangers improved to 16-0-0 when scoring at least four goals.
New York outshot the Avalanche – who were playing for the third time in four nights – by a 43-28 margin. It’s the ninth time this season the Rangers have taken at least 40 shots.
Lundqvist is three wins away from 300 for his career, and four wins away from Mike Richter’s franchise record of 301 career wins.
The Rangers will play the 6,000th game in franchise history Thursday against the Oilers, before finishing the pre-Olympic schedule Friday in Pittsburgh.
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