NHL teams have until Friday to make trades before the start of the Olympic hockey tournament. That has created some urgency on several fronts, including the Ryan Callahan situation.
New York Rangers Glen Sather is threatening to trade captain Callahan by then if he can’t lock the pending unrestricted free agent into an extension. He also gave other teams permission to talk contract with Steve Bartlett, Callahan’s representative.
So the game of chicken is underway. Saturday the New York Post reported that Callahan’s contract talks with the Rangers had broken off, with Sather holding firm at $30 million over five years. This, as the Post noted, is “Joe Pavelski money” and a fair target.
Callahan, who turns 29 in March, is seeking $42 million over seven years according to the Post. The Ottawa Sun suggests the demand is closer to “Patrice Bergeron money” with a $6.5 annual cap hit.
Can the two sides bridge this gap this week?
Sather is understandably reluctant to commit big money to Callahan’s twilight years. Then again, Callahan is a universally respected leader. This team is playing the best hockey it has played in some time, with all of its pieces coming together.
Is Sather willing to disrupt that progress just to save some money on the back end of a contract? After all, Sather has signed off on some of the most ridiculous contracts in modern NHL history.
He would be wise to find common ground with Callahan and look elsewhere for future cost cutting. But if this contract squabble leads to divorce, the Columbus Blue Jackets and St. Louis Blues would have to show some interest.
The Rangers are checking out Blues winger Chris Stewart, throwing some fuel on the Callahan fire. But the Blue Jackets could be a better fit, since that franchise might be willing to pay a premium for additional leadership.
Here are some other storylines to watch:
- The Ryan Miller Sweepstakes may not occur until after the Olympics. The Buffalo Sabres want plenty in return for the Team USA goaltender. The Minnesota Wild and especially the Washington Capitals are two teams that will need better goaltending to get into postseason play.
- The Islanders haven’t convinced pending unrestricted free agent Thomas Vanek to sign a contract extension, so that franchise might be better off dealing him for a first-round pick and perhaps a prospect or two. Several contenders are starved for short-term scoring help. Should Vanek reach free agency, the Wild would be a logical bidder.
- The unspeakably bad Edmonton Oilers must retool for real. So that team is looking to offload several players, not just overpaid winger Ales Hemsky.
- The Montreal Canadiens made a play for forward P.A. Parenteau but couldn’t strike a deal with the Colorado Avalanche. So the Canadiens keep shopping and Parenteau remains in play.
- Avalanche center Paul Stastny suffered a minor ankle injury as the Olympics, complicating his scenario. He has put up numbers between his injuries (39 points in 49 games) but seems likely to test the marketplace as an unrestricted free agent this summer. Can the 'Lanche flip him for some defensive help?
- The Los Angeles Kings will almost certainly deal for offensive help. They several forward prospects still in development. They have fallen into a season-threatening offensive slump. Something has to give.
- The pool of available defensemen is quite shallow. So the Florida Panthers might get a nice return on veteran puck-mover Tom Gilbert, who reemerged this season with 24 points in his first 54 games.