Another player who was the face of his team was on the move Wednesday, hours ahead of the NHL’s trade deadline, as Marty St. Louis joined fellow franchise emblems Ryan Miller and Roberto Luongo in the trek to new cities.
St. Louis, 38, who wanted out after he was initially snubbed by the Canadian Olympic hockey team, was traded by the Tampa Bay Lightning to the New York Rangers for fellow forward Ryan Callahan, 29, a first-round pick in the 2015 NHL entry draft and a conditional second-round pick in 2014. That ends a 13-year association between the Lightning and St. Louis, which began when he was signed as a free agent.
The native of Laval, Que., played almost 1,000 games for the Lightning and was the last star player on the team who was part of Tampa’s Stanley Cup win in 2004. Brad Richards, Nikolai Khabibulin and Vincent Lecavalier were all shipped out earlier. Along the way, St. Louis won a Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most-valuable player in 2004 and two scoring titles.
Despite the fact St. Louis is having an outstanding season, with 61 points in 62 games and is one of the main reasons the Lightning are solidly in playoff contention despite losing forward Steve Stamkos to a broken leg, his relationship with Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman soured. Yzerman was also the executive director of Team Canada and St. Louis was not on the team when it was announced in January. Even though St. Louis was later named as an injury replacement for Stamkos and won a gold medal, it was a slight he could not bear. St. Louis demanded a trade, naming the Rangers as the only team for which he would waive his no-trade rights.
So, with Stamkos set to come off the injury list Thursday night, his friend and now former teammate will not be there. But Stamkos will more than fill the scoring gap left with the loss of St. Louis, although the Lightning will not be nearly as explosive as the team could have been.
“We’d like to thank Marty for everything he has done on and off the ice during his outstanding 13-year career in Tampa Bay,” Yzerman said in a statement released by the Lightning. “He has been one of the greatest players in the organization’s history but in the end we honored his request today.
“We wish him and his family the best of luck as he continues his career in New York.”
Given the restriction of one team placed on him by St. Louis, Yzerman managed an excellent return for a player whose career is headed for its final laps, depending on what he can do with Callahan, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent July 1. The Rangers traded Callahan after they could not come to an agreement on a new contract.
The conditions on the second-round pick could upgrade Yzerman’s return significantly. If the Rangers make this year’s Eastern Conference final, that pick becomes a first-rounder in 2014. Or, if the Lightning signs Callahan, instead of the second-round pick, the Lightning would get the Rangers’ seventh-round pick in 2015 and send their 2015 second-round pick to the Rangers.
Callahan, who has 25 points in 45 games this season, will never replace the scoring St. Louis provides but he is a valuable player in his own right. He is a tenacious checker and shot-blocker, valuable qualities to have in the playoffs when the defences tighten up.
“The Lightning are very excited to have Ryan Callahan join the organization and help us in our quest to make the playoffs,” Yzerman said. “Ryan is an outstanding player and leader who we look forward to seeing on the ice tomorrow night.”
While the Rangers pulled back from completing a contract with Callahan, several reports said they were not far apart. He wanted a six-year deal for a total of $39-million (all currency U.S.). The Rangers agreed to the term but did not want to pay more than $36-million.
Follow me on Twitter: @dshoalts