NHL Trade Rumors: Sather Gauging Interest on Ryan Callahan

NHL Trade Rumors, Ryan Callahan
NHL Trade Rumors, Ryan Callahan
John E Sokolowski USA TODAY Sports

The captain of the New York Rangers, Ryan Callahan, has apparently had his name bandied about in trade rumors as of late. In this edition of TSN’s Insider Trading, highly-respected NHL sources Darren Dreger and Bob McKenzie both name Callahan by name, saying (and this is paraphrased) that General Manager Glen Sather is gauging interest in both he and defenseman Dan Girardi because of their impending unrestricted free agency this summer. According to Mr. McKenzie and Mr. Dreger, the thought is that whoever doesn’t get signed will be traded by the March 5 trade deadline.

While this may seem a bit surprising to some fans, here’s why it shouldn’t. This is a team that has 12 players on their current roster coming up for either unrestricted or restricted free agency this summer. Besides Girardi and Callahan, names like Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider and Derick Brassard are all restricted free agents and are all having pretty good seasons. On the horizon, Marc Staal is a UFA after the 2015 season and Derek Stepan is an RFA. With just the contracts of Rick Nash ($7.8 million), Henrik Lundqvist ($8.5 million) and Brad Richards ($6.66 million) totalling nearly $23 million alone for the next several years – a number that would represent just under one-third of the projected salary cap for next year – there is justifiable cause for concern about being able to keep all their players and stay under the cap.

This situation plays out in four ways.

Scenario 1: Sign both Girardi and Callahan

As Dreger and McKenzine pointed out, if these two were to re-sign with the Rangers for about $11.5 million per season combined as a cap hit, this would raise their overall commitment to five players in the neighbourhood of $34.5 million next season, or bit under half of next year’s potential salary cap. That is a lot of money committed to just a handful of players for a long time. As good as Girardi and Callahan are – and I’ll get to that later – this isn’t the Pittsburgh Penguins paying Crosby, Malkin, Neal and Letang.

As much as management might want to keep both around, seeing how much money is already tied up and how much money they yet have to spend (remember all the players coming up for some type of free agency), it doesn’t seem very likely.

Scenario 2: Sign Callahan, Trade Girardi

Earlier this month, the Rangers acquired defenseman Kevin Klein from the Nashville Predators in exchange for Michael Del Zotto.

Both Klein and Girardi profile as similar players: they both don’t have high offensive upside (Girardi more than Klein) but can make the first pass coming out of their own end; they’re similarly-sized right handed defensemen though Girardi is a bit of a better skater; Girardi plays more minutes though most of those minutes are from the power play (again, the offensive upside part). So while Girardi is the superior defenseman, you can insert Klein in his spot and the drop off isn’t too dramatic.

The trade would seem to make Girardi the more expendable player. The question is then what does Girardi get the Rangers in return.

Last year, the Blues acquired Jay Bouwmeester from the Calgary Flames and gave up a prospect defenseman in Mark Cundari, goalie Reto Berra, a first round pick and a fourth round pick. On the lower end of the scale, Robyn Regehr was traded from Buffalo to the Los Angeles Kings for two second rounders. Douglas Murray fetched two second rounders a year ago when he went from San Jose to Pittsburgh. The possibility of Girardi as a rental player for this year only makes it seem possible he could fetch something along the lines of a prospect, a second rounder and a fourth rounder. Not a bad haul for player who probably doesn’t fit in the salary structure anyway for the Rangers.

Scenario 3: Trade Callahan, Sign Girardi

The possibility of signing Girardi and trading Callahan should seem very real. With the depth of forwards that the Rangers have including Nash, Stepan, Kreider, Richards, Zuccarello, and Brassard, the need for defensemen would seem to be the more pressing one. I don’t doubt the intangibles that Callahan brings to that dressing room but a GM needs to look at the salary cap and the depth chart, too.

Callahan has been hampered by injuries this year but he’s established himself as a 20-goal, 50-point player in the NHL whose leadership is valued, and players like that don’t come along very often. Even the prospect of acquiring an impact player like this would have many GMs who think their teams can make a run salivating.

Remember it was just a year ago that the Washington Capitals gave up uber-prospect Filip Forsberg to acquire Martin Erat from the Predators. While Erat still had two more years on his contract, he’s likely viewed to be as a much less impactful player than Callahan. In that sense, Callahan could be worth a top prospect plus a first or second round pick in the next draft or two.

Scenario 4: Trade Both

While this seems unlikely, if Sather really doesn’t view the Rangers as Stanley Cup contenders, these two would be excellent pieces to move on the trade market. At the outset of the season, the Rangers’ organizational depth found themselves at 19th on Hockey Prospectus. Beyond the players who have already appeared for this team, like Chris Kreider, there isn’t a whole lot in the farm system. If Sather wanted to really start building for the future, this would seem to be a good jump-start.

I’m of the mind that the Rangers, with the addition of maybe a top four puck-moving defenseman, could challenge in the Eastern Conference. If Sather doesn’t see things that way, this team could look a lot different six weeks from now.

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Michael Clifford
Michael Clifford was born and raised in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada and is a graduate of the Unviersity of New Brunswick. He writes about fantasy hockey and baseball for XNSports and FantasyTrade411.com. He can be reached on Twitter @SlimCliffy for any fantasy hockey questions. !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+'://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');