Agent: Lightning made "good case" to keep Callahan
There's no question the Lightning would love to re-sign forward Ryan Callahan.
"As long as I'm coaching this team, I want Ryan Callahan on the bench," coach Jon Cooper said. "I don't know how much stronger I can be about that."
Agent Steven Bartlett said Wednesday the Lightning made a strong case to keep Callahan, who is a free agent, but there's always that "temptation" of July 1st, when he can at least see what other teams might be offering.
Callahan, 29, impressed the Lightning after coming over from the Rangers in March in the Marty St. Louis trade, bringing the kind of gritty style the team needed. He racked up 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 20 games, though didn't play as well as he wanted in the playoffs. Whether Tampa Bay can re-sign him to a long-term deal will be one of the biggest lingering offseason questions.
"There's no question he did enjoy it," Bartlett said. "He was impressed by the organization and everybody, from the city and the fans, everything was positive. I think the city made a good case for itself, the team made a good case. There's always the temptation of July 1st.
"You don't get that many times in your career, especially at the peak of your career. Those are what you have to balance, the positive and all the good things he knows about Tampa, and what is his right, you have the opportunity to at least hear other people. That doesn't mean Tampa wouldn't be his first choice."
It's still early in the process, as the Lightning has exclusive negotiation rights with Callahan until July 1st. Bartlett said he's only had casual conversations with Lightning GM Steve Yzerman so far, and still has to meet up again with Callahan, who has been traveling, to get a better sense of what he wants to do.
But considering Callahan has yet to have this type of chance to be a free agent, having spent his entire career with the Rangers before the March trade, you'd think it's possible he'll want to at least test the waters. Then it could also become a matter of price. There were reports, when the Rangers were trying to sign him to an extension this spring, that he was looking for a six-year, $36-39 million deal.
Maybe Callahan would take a little less in Florida, considering there's no state income taxes? But a team like Buffalo, near Callahan's hometown of Rochester, N.Y., could make a run at him, for example, and drive up the price.
Bartlett didn't want to handicap the chances of what Callahan will decide to do. But he used this analogy: Do you buy the first car you test drive, or test out a bunch and buy the one you like the best? It still may be the first one.
"I have no doubt that (a lot) of teams will have interest in Ryan Callahan," Bartlett said. "But, at the same time, I can say Tampa made a very good case for itself."