‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
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What motivates Ryan Callahan more? Maximum dollars or the opportunity to remain an integral component of a Rangers team that has every chance of competing for the Stanley Cup in the present and coming years?
We’ll soon find out.
Don’t let Sunday’s deflating 6-3 defeat to the Bruins deceive you. The Rangers are probably only one piece away from being legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. If the Blueshirts can retain their captain and acquire an additional goal-scorer, this team would be primed for a long playoff run that could stretch into late June.
Callahan’s future will be decided one way or another before Wednesday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.
Throughout weeks of ongoing speculation, Callahan has maintained that his heart is with the Rangers.
“We’ll just wait and see,” Callahan said. “Obviously, my heart is still here and I want to be here. We’ll just see what happens. Yeah, definitely. It’s been on my mind, there’s no secret there. It’ll be nice to get it done with and move past it.”
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault has continued to express bold optimism when asked about his captain’s future with the team.
“Nothing that I’ve heard has changed my mind on that,” Vigneault said.
Coincidentally, after the Rangers left the ice on Sunday night, beloved former captain Mark Messier and a group of legends from that magical 1994 Stanley Cup team took the Garden ice as part of Messier’s leadership camp.
Messier was joined by Brian Leetch, Adam Graves, Mike Richter and Stephane Matteau in Sunday’s scrimmage with fantasy campers divided into two teams.
The legacy of Messier and the 1994 curse-breakers is set in stone. They will forever be remembered as the saviors that brought joy to the streets of New York by ending a miserable 54-year Stanley Cup drought.
It’s Callahan’s legacy that remains up in the air. According to multiple reports, the Rangers have offered a six-year extension at $6 million per year. It’s a very fair offer given concerns about Callahan’s long-term health and probable decrease in production once he nears his mid-30s.
Should he sign a long-term extension, Callahan will have the chance to do something very special. Perhaps one day he will lift the Stanley Cup aloft while riding down the Canyon of Heroes, replicating the unparalleled joy that Messier’s 1994 team brought to this town, thus ingraining himself as an iconic figure in this city’s history.
Or he could be remembered as the guy who stepped off the ride just when the Rangers were closest to their fifth Stanley Cup triumph. Perhaps, Callahan will belong to another organization when the Rangers lift Lord Stanley, and he’ll be watching from his couch imagining what could have been.
Callahan admitted that the thought of Sunday’s defeat potentially being his final game as a Ranger did not cross his mind. He reiterated that New York is where he wants to be.
“No, I didn’t look at it like that,” Callahan said. “This is where I want to be, and I’m just focusing on doing what I can for the team.”
It’s one thing to say that your heart is in New York and another to commit your future to the Blueshirts by signing on the dotted line.
We’ll soon find out whether top dollars or loyalty to the Rangers’ cause is what truly tugs at Callahan’s heart.
The Rangers do not have a practice scheduled for Monday. Their next game comes after the trade deadline passes, against the Maple Leafs at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night.
Follow Sean on Twitter @HartnettHockey.
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