Any time Rangers captain Ryan Callahan’s name is mentioned by a plugged-in reporter on Twitter, the social media platform turns into Ken Kesey’s famous novel “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.”
It certainly appears the 26th captain in New York Rangers franchise history is watching his grip on his captaincy slowly slip away.
Not because he’s lost the respect of his teammates – Callahan is beloved by his peers. It’s certainly not because coach Alain Vigneault is upset with his captain’s work ethic; Callahan’s might be the best in the league.
His hold on the captaincy is slipping because in ten days, there’s a rising chance he won’t be a Ranger anymore. In fact, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported Tuesday night that he’s been told “it’s 99% guaranteed that Ryan Callahan will get traded by the New York Rangers” prior to the March 5 trade deadline.
Callahan is in the final season of a three-year, $12.8 million contract. He’s reportedly seeking a seven-year deal, while the Rangers are believed to be comfortable offering the gritty, hard-nosed forward only five years.
Rangers general manager Glen Sather is believed to be actively looking at trading his heart-and-soul leader and captain because he don’t want to risk losing Callahan for nothing when he’s likely to go on the open market as an unrestricted free agent this July.
But that belief doesn’t take into account the effect Callahan can have in the playoffs. The Rangers, as of Tuesday night, are second in the Metropolitan Division. They appear to be more concerned with what they can get for Callahan in July than what they can get from him in May.
It’s indeed quite rare to see a contending team actively investigating the possibility of trading its captain due to a fear of losing him after the season. It’s the kind of move likely in last-place Buffalo, where two stars with expiring contracts – forward Matt Moulson and goaltender Ryan Miller – are expected to be dealt in the next ten days.
According to one of the fringe areas of the sports world, there was talk earlier this week the Rangers might be able to snatch Tampa Bay’s star forward Martin St. Louis in exchange for Callahan. But that rumor is far-fetched. Callahan’s going to be a six-week rental for the team that acquires him. The return to New York will not be the fair market value of what Callahan’s worth is over a six-month season; it will be his market value over the final six weeks of the regular season.
The Rangers are not likely to be able to pry a top-six forward in exchange for their captain – he’s simply not worth that much this late in a season. They now have to explore whether Callahan’s contributions in April and May will be greater than what they can get from his in-season replacement.
When the season ends, the $6-7 million Callahan desires can be spent on another player, so it’s not like they’re losing him for nothing in the offseason. His salary will be reinvested back into the team.
The old saying goes, “there’s no time like the present.” Callahan is of more use to the Rangers through the end of their season than he is as trade bait.
As for now, the Rangers appear to be consumed with the month of July, when they should be more concerned with the do-or-die games they’re likely to be playing in late April and early May — and who knows, perhaps into June.
After all, if Callahan is moved, even McMurphy will have trouble saving the Rangers’ playoff aspirations.