‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
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After Friday’s 4-1 victory over the rival Islanders, New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan sat at his locker stall and told Rangers fans the words they longed to hear.
“My heart’s here. I want to be here. That’s all I worry about on the ice,” Callahan said.
If Callahan’s comments can be taken at face value, his desire is to remain with the only organization he’s ever known.
But that’s in an ideal world — a world where Rangers general manager Glen Sather would be more than willing to extend Callahan a six or seven year contract offer at an average annual value exceeding $6 million. That’s the kind of offer Callahan and his agent Stephen Bartlett are understood to desire.
Darren Dreger of TSN reported on Friday that one or more teams asked for permission to speak with Bartlett and were granted permission by the Rangers to sound out the agent about what kind of contract Callahan is seeking.
“At least one team has requested and was given permission to speak with Stephen Bartlett, who represents Ryan Callahan, to gauge what his contract demands might be,” Dreger said on TSN’ s Inside Trading. “Now, all along it’s been believed that he’s looking for at least seven years and north of $6 million per year. We know the St. Louis Blues have expressed interest. There’s talk of Chris Stewart being involved in some type of a package. There’s a lot of interest and it continues to build.”
This is of course, a ploy by Sather. By allowing Bartlett to speak with interested teams, the feedback Callahan might receive may not be to his liking. It’s an attempt by Sather to get Callahan and Bartlett to lower their demands come back to the negotiating table with a softer stance.
Sure, Callahan would certainly command the seven-year, $42 million deal he’s seeking in a free agency. That might not be the case for any of the teams wishing to agree terms with Callahan before parting with a package that would sway Sather into trading his 28-year-old captain.
The ball is in Callahan’s court. He can choose to ultimately take a lesser contract than what he’s expected earn in free agency to remain with the Rangers, or leave Sather no choice but to trade him before the March 5 trade deadline to a team willing or unwilling to meet his contractual demands.
There comes a time when a player becomes fully aware of his market value. None of us can get inside Callahan’s head. Given the scarcity of talent in the summer 2014 free agent class, Callahan would be wise to test the market if his ultimate desire is the security of a seven-year deal and maximum dollars.
Rangers alternate captain Marc Staal said he and his teammates are “blocking out” the Callahan trade speculation.
“He’s a heart and soul guy in this room, and he has been for a very long time, ” Staal said. “He’s a big part of this team. Rumors and talk like that happen, especially when you’re in the last year of a contract. Obviously, his name is going to come up. He’s such a talented player. I think you just gotta try to block out as much as you can and focus on winning hockey games.”
Despite decreased minutes and Callahan not being employed on the power play, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault remains optimistic that a deal can be struck that allows “Captain Cally” to remain with the Blueshirts for the long-term.
“I’m a big fan of Ryan Callahan and I know he wants to be here,” Vigneault said following Friday’s victory at Madison Square Garden. “Contracts have nothing to do with me, but I’m hoping both parties can come to an agreement.”
Perhaps, a six-year deal at an average annual value near $6 million might be a fair compromise for both sides. That’s near the $5.875 AAV Los Angeles Kings’ captain Dustin Brown received when he signed an eight-year extension this summer.
Callahan and Brown are considered similar players, though Brown already has a Stanley Cup ring on his résumé, is a stronger physical specimen and is far more durable.
So far, Callahan and his camp has held firm. If his number one desire is to remain with the Rangers, Callahan will have to come to his senses and scale back his demands.
Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey.
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