Negotiations between Lightning, Callahan reach 'critical stage'
Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman remains hopeful he can sign veteran wing Ryan Callahan before he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1st.
But while agent Steve Bartlett says both sides have made progress in recent weeks, they don't appear close to an agreement.
"It's at a critical stage where we have to find a way to close the gap," Bartlett said.
It seems all the more likely that Callahan, as expected, will at least be able to test free agency. Bartlett expects teams will reach out to him on Wednesday, the first day they're allowed to make contact. While no offers can be made from other clubs until July 1, it will at least give Callahan's camp an idea of who else is in the running.
Bartlett didn't want to handicap how close he and the Lightning are, but praised Yzerman for how he's handled the process and said both sides have been negotiating in good faith.
"We're never going to close the door on Tampa," Bartlett said.
Bartlett says even if Callahan reaches free agency, he could still return to Tampa. He pointed out that getting feedback from other teams Wednesday could actually help the Lightning; especially if Callahan isn't as interested in the other suitors.
Callahan enjoyed his experience in Tampa, from the city to the organization and coaching staff. He never felt like an "outsider," noting how close the team was on and off the ice. He made it clear at the end of the season being with a team that's moving in the right direction is a "huge part" of his decision.
"It's a big part of it," Callahan said in April. "You want to be on a team that the organization is going in the right direction. I can definitely see that they're doing that this year. And the amount of young talent, the future does look bright."
But finances also play a role, and it'll be interesting to see if the Lightning and Callahan can close that gap in the coming week. If not, Callahan may not be a part of Tampa Bay's future.