NHL trade deadline
St. Louis, Callahan look like spoiled brats in Rangers-Lightning trade 0
Martin St. Louis of the New York Rangers (Adam Hunger, USA Today Sports)
Suddenly on deadline day in the National Hockey League, the cherished ‘C’ became all about ‘me’.
The captains of two teams were revealed to be nothing like captains at all, traded for each other in a mashing of egos, mirrors, contract negotiations, hurt feelings, pettiness and singularity.
It was almost enough to make Darryl Sittler tear the ‘C’ from his jersey once again, if that wasn’t bad enough the first time around.
This should have been the time of Martin St. Louis’ life. He just won an Olympic gold medal in Sochi. The best shooter in hockey, Steven Stamkos, is set to return to the lineup of the much-improved Tampa Bay Lightning. If Jon Cooper isn’t coach of the year in the NHL, he is certainly on the ballot. How many goalies are playing better than Ben Bishop? And in an Eastern Conference devoid of a great team, somebody has to play for the Stanley Cup and that somebody just might be the Lightning, the team he has represented for 13 seasons.
Only, Marty didn’t see it that way. He was too hurt when his general manager, Steve Yzerman, left him off the Team Canada roster. He was hot and sour that this was the second straight time Yzerman, as Canadian GM, picked a gold medal winning roster without including him. He was added to the Olympic team only because Stamkos couldn’t play.
Never mind the me-first about it all, which captains are never supposed to be. Yzerman was one of a handful of executives who comprised the Canadian front office. Mike Babcock and his coaching staff put their team together too. By the time the roster was selected, Yzerman had a choice: He could have gone against consensus, and process and select St. Louis, or he could manage the team properly and injure his position in Tampa.
There was no easy call, but Yzerman, a former captain himself, chose to be a team player.
Something St. Louis could learn from.
Instead, St. Louis exploded. He told Yzerman what he thought of his Team Canada and the GM, boldly told him he never wanted to play for him again.
He didn’t just demand a trade, even with a no-trade clause, he demaned to be dealt to the New York Rangers.
And now St. Louis becomes the poster boy for pout: Yzerman served him well. First a gold medal. Then a deal out of Tampa to his beloved New York. He gave the brat everything he wanted. No doubt, he acted partly out of anger, partly out of need, partly because he probably couldn’t watch his team play with a captain he had so little regard for.
Ryan Callahan was not having the season of his life in New York, which is what no athlete is supposed to do in a contract year. That’s when you’re thought to light it up, to score like you’ve never scored before, lead like you’ve never led before, at least one of which Callahan has been significantly sharp at throughout his seven years with the Rangers.
He’d never been a huge scorer — one year, he had 29 goals, one year he had as many as 54 points — but this year, the offence wasn’t working. He’d scored 11 goals and had trouble staying healthy. With a Rangers team that turned its season around after a dreadful start and a dreadful schedule to begin the season, things were going well for the club he was captain of.
Even if they weren’t going so well for Callahan.
The Rangers wanted to sign him. They offered a six-year contract, six million dollars a year. Amazing term and amazing money for a hard-working leader, a go-to-the-net, play the dirty parts of the ice kind of player who is nearing the age of 29. When you bang, when you crash, when you block that many shots, you age quicker in hockey.
The six years, six million a year was a gift — but Callahan didn’t see it that way. He wanted more. He wanted a no-trade arrangement. He wanted to be a Ranger for life — only he needed something else to do that.
Right up until Tuesday, his agent was negotiating as though Callahan would stay with the Rangers. Callahan had a certain swagger about him on the ice, in the room, as an American captain of one of America’s great franchises.
But he put himself ahead of his team — like St. Louis — the way a captain should never act.
I’m no fan of Glen Sather as a general manager — I loathe the man — but in this case, he was more than generous with Callahan.
And when he couldn’t sign his captain, he did the only thing he could: He traded him away.
One ‘me’ guy — not necessarily ‘C’ guys — traded for another.
On a day when the once-sacred captaincy took it on the chin, all in the name of self-indulgent sanctimony.