‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
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The Olympic roster freeze has begun, meaning if there are trades to be made in the NHL they cannot happen until 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 23.
For the moment, Rangers fans can exhale. Captain Ryan Callahan will remain property of the Blueshirts throughout the Sochi games.
Despite rampant trade speculation, Callahan’s even-keeled personality has limited the impact on himself and his teammates. Through it all, he has maintained a wholly professional approach.
The only thing on Callahan’s mind is focusing on the task at hand, which will continue Friday night when the Rangers and their captain take on the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center..
“It’s big. It’s a divisional game,” Callahan said. “You can’t look too far ahead to the Olympics. It’s a big two points with not a lot of games left after we come back from the Olympics. All of our focus is going to be on that game. After that, you worry about the Olympics.”
There was a point when it seemed very possible that Callahan would be a goner before Friday’s 3 p.m. roster freeze, but a package that satisfied Rangers general manager Glen Sather never materialized.
CALLAHAN IS EAGER TO TEST FREE AGENCY
Any team acquiring Callahan understands it will be receiving a rental who is seeking top dollars and length on the open market. Callahan is understood to be demanding a seven-year deal worth somewhere between $6.5 and $7 million in annual salary.
Sather isn’t afraid of taking on the risk that comes with sending the oft-injured Callahan to the Sochi Olympics. But should the veteran forward suffer a long-term injury, it would effectively kill Sather’s opportunity to create a bidding war for Callahan ahead of the March 5 trade deadline.
Also hindering a possible trade are concerns about Callahan’s eagerness to explore unrestricted free agency.
So, it appears that there is a significant chance Sather will hang on to his captain beyond the March 5 trade deadline, even if talks with Callahan’s agent, Stephen Bartlett, continue to produce frustration and little actual progress.
ONE LAST PLAYOFF RUN WITH CAPTAIN CALLY?
Perhaps the Rangers can convince Callahan to reconsider his stance by giving him one last taste of what it’s like to experience a deep playoff run in front of a roaring Madison Square Garden crowd.
The hope would be the electricity of Garden nights in April and May would tug hard at Callahan’s heartstrings to the point where he relents and takes the Rangers’ best offer in unrestricted free agency, rather than accepting the best deal on the table.
While the Rangers aren’t favorites to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup finals, there isn’t a whole lot missing from this season’s squad. It is arguably the most complete Rangers team Callahan has been a part of.
The addition of steady veteran Kevin Klein has solidified the Rangers’ blue line. Rick Nash and Chris Kreider are two very difficult players to contain on the offensive end. And anything is possible should Henrik Lundqvist catch fire once the playoffs start.
Callahan has said all along that he wants to remain a Ranger.
“My heart’s here. I want to be here. That’s all I worry about on the ice,” Callahan said on Feb. 1.
It’s possible Callahan won’t be able to turn his back on the only organization he’s ever known and eventually chooses the option that secures his place on a competitive roster for years to come — rather than the financial security of the more lucrative seven-year deal he’ll command in free agency.
Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey
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