Friday, April 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning a good fit for Ryan Callahan so far

It's been a little more than two weeks since the Lightning traded captain Marty St. Louis to the Rangers for Ryan Callahan, and in the short term, anyway, Tampa Bay has gotten the better of the deal.

Callahan has two goals, including a winner, and five points in nine games and is plus-5 with an average 19:34 of ice time. St. Louis has zero goals and three assists in 10 games with New York and is plus-3 with an average 19:56 of ice time.

Like St. Louis, Callahan, a right wing, plays in all situations. But Callahan plays with a gritty edge St. Louis does not.

"That kid knows how to play the game below the dots," coach Jon Cooper said, "and we just haven't had a ton of those guys wheel through our organization."

"He's been great for us," captain Steven Stamkos said. "You don't really know what to expect when a guy comes into a new situation. We knew the type of player 'Cally' is, but you don't know until you play with him and you see every shift and at every practice how hard he works.

"He's a competitor, and he wants to win. He fits into the mold Cooper wants our team to play perfectly."

How Callahan fits — in Cooper's system and the locker room — will go a long way toward determining whether the potential unrestricted free agent signs with Tampa Bay.

General manager Steve Yzerman struck the right tone with Callahan's camp by not pressuring the player into immediate negotiations, preferring Callahan first get a sense of the organization, the Tampa Bay area, the coaching staff and his new teammates.

Rangers owner James Dolan went on a New York radio station last week and said Callahan's reported demand of between $6.25 million and $6.5 million a year for six years would have hamstrung the organization. But Callahan's agent has said Florida's lack of state income tax means players can be willing to play for less.

So, back to comfort zone.

Callahan said his transition has been fairly seamless: "It's been pretty quick. The guys welcomed me, and everyone was great. After the first couple of days, I felt pretty comfortable in the room, off the ice and on the ice, too."

In New York, on the other hand, the talk is of St. Louis pressing.

Considering he was negotiating only with the Rangers, Yzerman did well to get Callahan as well as a first-round draft pick in 2015 and a second-rounder this year that will become a first if New York reaches the Eastern Conference final .

It's been a short-term win for the Lightning and might be a long-term one as well.

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