There have been persistent rumors surrounding New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan and his future with the club. Between the length of the offer and the money that Callahan and his agent have put forth during negotiations, the Rangers have a serious dilemma on their hands. Do they give in to Callahan’s demands and give him a reported $6.75 million over seven years or do they trade him on the Mar. 5 trade deadline where they can solve several of the organization’s other needs?
Callahan is currently mired in his worst offensive season as a Ranger. He is on pace to score 17 goals and 37 points in 65 games which would signify career-lows in six full-time seasons with the Rangers excluding the shortened 2012-13 campaign. While many Rangers forwards have struggled under the new regime with head coach Alain Vigneault, Callahan has been one of the forwards most affected by the team’s new philosophy. Callahan has lost his spot in front of the net on the power play which has been one of the biggest sources of his offensive output in recent years, totaling 38 power play goals between the 2009-10 and 2012-13 seasons. Callahan ranks eighth on the Rangers with 1:47 of power play ice time per game, the least amongst the team’s offensive players. He still contributes on the penalty kill, playing 1:17 per game shorthanded which is fourth amongst active roster players. What does Vigneault’s management of the Rangers captain signify for his future in New York?
Callahan is no longer effective as a Rangers player. He has shown glimpses of his past self including a two-goal, three point night against Colorado on Feb. 4, but those games have been few and far between. Widely regarded as the quintessential ‘John Tortorella‘ player, this new system has proved to be too contrasting to Callahan’s style. He will not return to being the player who was averaging .38 goals per game over the past three seasons or a 31 goal pace over 82 games. The Rangers must make the right — albeit tough — choice to trade Callahan at the trade deadline.
The Rangers have several weaknesses in the organization at the farm system level that could be addressed by trading Callahan. Hockey’s Future ranked the Rangers’ prospects 27th out of the 30 NHL teams, stressing that the depth of their prospects and overall talent of players is lacking within the organization. While there is some hope with recent third-round draft picks Anthony Duclair and Pavel Buchnevich, the former strength of the Rangers has now become a weakness. Last season the Buffalo Sabres moved Jason Pominville to the Minnesota Wild for a large ransom which included two highly rated prospects, a first-round pick and a second-round selection as well. Those two prospects, goaltender Matt Hackett and forward Johan Larsson, both project to be NHL players and were highly rated by Minnesota’s management staff. While Pominville had one year remaining on his deal and Callahan is a pending unrestricted free agent, general manager Glen Sather has allowed other teams to negotiate with Callahan’s agent prior to a deal being made. This will significantly raise the value of the return that the Rangers will receive. The St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo are all reported to have interest in Callahan, and each team has strong prospects that the Rangers should aim to acquire.
Today’s NHL is truly a business world. With the salary cap in place, over-payments have come back to bite teams. This holds especially true for the Rangers, who have dealt with such albatross contracts as Scott Gomez, Chris Drury and Wade Redden. Signing Ryan Callahan to a similar contract would prove to be a grave mistake. Instead, the Rangers must make the tough decision to trade their captain and reinforce their prospect depth to improve the future of the organization. While short-term results would suffer, the long-term implications of a deal such as this could be monumental towards the Rangers winning their next Stanley Cup Championship.