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Hartnett: Sather, Don’t Play With Fire; Trade Callahan Before Olympics Freeze

An Injury In Sochi Could Kill Captain's Value, Leaving Rangers In A Bad Position
Ryan Callahan (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Ryan Callahan (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
» More Columns

Ryan Callahan is making life extremely difficult for Rangers general manager Glen Sather.

Since the summer it has been Sather’s desire to reach an agreement with his captain on a long-term extension. Of course, Sather wants an extension done on his terms, meaning Callahan would have to sacrifice both length and maximum dollars to continue calling Madison Square Garden his home.

Callahan’s agent, Stephen Bartlett, is not coming close to meeting any kind of middle ground in negotiations with the Rangers. Callahan’s camp has held firm on its demand of a seven-year contract. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported on Monday that Callahan is seeking in excess of $6.5 million per year.

“He wants a lot of money,” Dreger said on TSN’s Insider Trading. “It’s been widely reported that Callahan is looking for a seven-year term around $6 million per year. That is not accurate. I’m told that it is more than $6.5 million, but less than $7 million per year on a seven-year term.”

Such demands are outlandish for a player whose production has slipped and has missed significant periods due to injury. He’s also not currently being featured on head coach Alain Vigneault’s power play.

Callahan has tallied 21 points (nine goals and 12 assists) in 39 games this season. He is currently on-pace t0 finish with 35 points in 65 games.

Considering the multitude of injuries he’s suffered and recent lacking of a power play role, it’s understandable why Callahan’s numbers are atypical this season.

That being said, when has Callahan ever proven to be a player worth close to $6.5 million per season? Sure-fire offensive forces such as Pavel Datsyuk, Patrick Kane, Anze Kopitar and the Sedin twins are in the bracket that Callahan is seeking. For his career, Callahan has topped 25 goals and 50 points just once, registering 29 and 54, respectively, back in 2011-12.

In addition, Callahan’s wiry build could lend itself to more frequent injuries due to his all-out style of play.

IF CALLY WANTS TO STAY, HE MUST SWALLOW HIS PRIDE

Last Friday, Callahan gave the Blueshirts faithful a glimmer of hope that somehow an accord could be struck by declaring that he wants to stay with the Rangers.

“My heart’s here. I want to be here. That’s all I worry about on the ice,” Callahan said after the 4-1 win over the visiting Islanders.

If Callahan genuinely wants to remain a Ranger above all else, he must swallow his pride and scale back his demands significantly. If he doesn’t, he is carving a path toward being traded to a contending Western Conference team as a rental and then exploring free agency in the summer.

According to reports, a desperate team like the Buffalo Sabres may be willing to shell out the lucrative seven-year deal Callahan desires should he become an unrestricted free agent. The Sabres’ desire to sign a big name could be enhanced if they move star goaltender Ryan Miller before the March 5 trade deadline.

Under the new brain trust of President of Hockey Operations Pat LaFontaine and general manager Tim Murray, the Sabres are apparently looking to make a big-splash signing. Their eyes could be focused on bringing the Rochester, N.Y.-raised Callahan to Buffalo as a clear signal of their ambition.

TRADE HIM SOONER RATHER THAN LATER

Unless the situation suddenly changes, Sather must trade Callahan before Friday’s 3 p.m. roster freeze ahead of the Sochi Olympics. Callahan cannot board Team USA’s flight without either an extension or as the property of another NHL club.

Why? Well, because Team USA plays its first Olympic game against Slovakia on Feb. 13. Should Callahan suffer a significant injury at the Olympics that forces him to miss more than three weeks, it would kill Sather’s opportunity to get a high return via trade.

That’s a scenario that the Blueshirts cannot afford. They need to deal him before the deadline Friday or risk playing with fire.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey.

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