Lightning sign Callahan to a six-year deal
By JOE SMITH
It didn’t take long for veteran wing Ryan Callahan to feel at home with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Callahan, 29, loved the way he was treated since coming over in March from the Rangers in the blockbuster Marty St. Louis trade, and was excited about the “bright future” of the organization.
So even though Callahan would likely have many suitors when he became an unrestricted free agent Tuesday, he never let them have a chance, signing a six-year, $34.8 million deal Wednesday with Tampa Bay.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Callahan said. “You don’t get a chance very often to become a free agent, but at the same time, I knew that the Lightning is where I wanted to be and a place I could see having success in. As enticing as free agency can sound, I know me and my family loved it there and I like the direction the team is going and how good the organization is. To get it done and now to be here for the next six years, it’s a new chapter, it’s exciting.”
Callahan will make an annual average of $5.8 million, but he said a “big sticking point” was his partial no-trade clause; it’ll be a full no-move clause in the first four years, and partial in the final two. Callahan and his wife, Kyla, have a two-year old daughter Charlotte and another baby due in August.
“It was really important,” Callahan said. “To have that security, not for me, but for the family and for the kids. Nobody likes to be uprooted and move in the middle of the season.”
Callahan racked up six goals and five assists for Tampa Bay after the former Rangers captain was acquired. The Lightning was impressed with his grit and two-way style, as well as a veteran presence in the room. Those qualities could be the trade-off for giving a player with Callahan’s injury history such a long deal.
Coach Jon Cooper loved Callahan, saying as long as he’s on the bench he wants the veteran forward with him. And now, Callahan will be.
“We are pleased to announce that we’ve reached an agreement on a six-year contract extension with Ryan,” Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said. “He’s proven to be a fierce competitor and outstanding leader who fits very well with our team.”
With the Lightning re-signing Callahan, it will complete the deal with the Rangers by sending them second-round pick in 2015 to New York. Tampa Bay will have an additional first round pick in this year and next year’s draft as a result of the trade.
The Lightning’s decision to use their compliance buyout on veteran Ryan Malone will save them a cap-hit of $4.5 million, giving them flexibility for Callahan’s deal as well as those for their remaining restricted free agents. Yzerman doesn’t feel they need a complete overhaul of a team that finished third in the Eastern Conference and made the playoffs before getting swept in the first-round by the Canadiens.
“We’re building towards something good,” Callahan said. “It wasn’t the playoffs we wanted, but we can learn from it. You realize that you need to go up another notch or two once the playoffs start and we have to use it as a stepping stone. We made the playoffs, which is great. Now we have to win in the playoffs.”