Ryan Callahan of Tampa Bay Lightning Should Stay Put

Ryan Callahan

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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?

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  • Steve

    Don’t expect Bishop to be signed to a longterm deal so soon. His status for next season still won’t be known until he undergoes wrist surgery tomorrow. And with Gudlevskis & Vasilevski still developing, the Lightning already have a lot of depth in the net for years to come.

    • Sonny Chiba

      The Bolts will have to sign Bishop to at least a “bridge contract” which would span as long as it takes for Gudlevskis and Vasilevski to become NHL-worthy starters. No easy task to appraise such a transition, with the goaltending position – Lindback’s seeming inability to make the critical jump is testament to that fact.

      Anders will be an RFA this summer, and has shown none of the makings of being even a serviceable back-up – Though, in all fairness, Cooper’s reluctance to filter him into regular play factored heavily into his lack of preparedness, when he found himself thrust into the cauldron of playoff Hockey. His time with the Bolts may (as a result) prove to be shorter than anticipated.

      Bishop’s signing (to a probable 4-year contract) would provide an immediate sense of stability and serve to advance the prospect of an even-handed transition at the position, while accommodating a confident level of development – All key parts of Yzerman’s pedigree (as a former executive, and understudy to Kenny Holland, in his time with the Wings’ organization.)

      • Steve

        Bishop is due for an extension, especially now being a Vezina nominee which makes his value a little more worthy, but the specifics regarding of how long and much isn’t set in stone.

        Regardless he’s still locked in for next year under his current contract, assuming he’s healthy in time, but how Yzerman chooses to handle the backup situation will be crucial for his role with the team the long run. Yzerman and Cooper both said they would like to keep Lindback, but they really should explore other UFA options for a backup (somewhere along the lines of Montoya, Peters, or Greiss).

        Gudlevskis also isn’t a whole lot younger than Bishop, and although he certainly needs more time to develop in Syracuse next year, it shouldn’t take him too long to fully make his way up.