The last few months have been interesting for Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Callahan as the then-career New York Ranger started the season in New York before representing Team USA in a disappointing fourth-place finish at Sochi Olympics. An unresolved contract situation and a cap-driven league (coupled with a disgruntled Martin St. Louis who was begging his way to New York on Tampa Bay’s end) had Callahan packing his bags and heading to Tampa after seven years as a Ranger.
General Manager Steve Yzerman and the Lightning acquired Callahan (and a few draft picks) with the knowledge he would be a free agent and could leave them over the summer, but also the peace of mind they could convince Callahan to remain a Bolt. Now almost two months later the question is why should Callahan choose to remain a member of the Lightning?
Despite the Lightning’s sweep at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens there is plenty to be positive about in Tampa, most notably Vezina candidate Ben Bishop. Bishop will almost assuredly be locked up to a long-term contract extension this summer that will keep him in Tampa for a long time. Bishop’s play and the development of former No. 2 overall pick Victor Hedman into a legitimate Norris candidate are just the tip of the sword for Tampa’s future. The young talent on this team is immense and the attitude from ownership down is amazingly positive. How else could a team rally after its best player (Steven Stamkos) missed extended time and its captain (Martin St. Louis) requested a trade in the middle of this amazing season?
In the Montreal series alone, youngsters Nikita Kucherov, Richard Panik, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Andrej Sustr, and JT Brown saw significant minutes and acquitted themselves well despite the sweep. It’s worth noting that Johnson, Sustr, and Brown were undrafted while Palat was a seventh-round afterthought who went undrafted in two previous drafts — a true testament to the Lightning’s scouting staff. If these young players continue to develop around franchise player Stamkos and his uncanny ability to score at any time from anywhere then Callahan and his gritty, effective play will be a round peg in a round hole. All Callahan will have to do is forecheck, kill penalties and “ride shotgun” with these skilled players.
In addition to the amazing young talent Yzerman has assembled there is one other factor that could keep Callahan in Tampa for the long-term — Florida’s lack of state income taxes. New York has some of the highest income taxes in the nation and Florida has none, meaning even if he were to take less than what the Rangers had offered (Reportedly between $6 and $6.5 million) he would at least partially make up the difference in the lack of state income taxes.
The contract Callahan signs this summer whether it is in Tampa or elsewhere will be his one BIG payday that all players seek. Unlike whiz kids such as Sidney Crosby or Stamkos who were collecting NHL paychecks as teens, Callahan wasn’t an established NHL player until he was 24 and has “only” made a shade under $18 million in his seven years in the league. This means that while he may take a little less to stay in Tampa, taking a massive “hometown discount” is out of the question.
Ryan Callahan should weigh his options before making a commitment but at the same time understand the benefits of staying in Tampa Bay. If he wants a combination of an up-and-coming young team to chase the Stanley Cup with, a great organization, and an amazing subtropical climate Tampa Bay is the place to be. The future of the Lightning is bright, with or without Callahan as Yzerman has assembled a great team and worked his way into Executive of the Year conversations. With prospects such as offensive dynamo Jonathan Drouin and Russian superstar goaltender Andrej Vasilevsky coming up in the near future, the question shouldn’t be why should Callahan stay in Tampa, but (cliche as it may sound) why shouldn’t he remain a member of the Lightning beyond this season?