Lightning signs Ryan Callahan to six-year, $34.8M deal

The wing forgoes free agency for a six-year, $34.8 million deal.
Published June 25 2014
Updated June 26 2014

TAMPA — It didn't take long for veteran wing Ryan Callahan to feel at home with the Lightning.

Callahan, 29, loved the way he was treated after coming over in March from the Rangers in the Marty St. Louis trade and was excited about the "bright future" of the organization.

So even though Callahan likely would have had many suitors when he became an unrestricted free agent on July 1, he signed a six-year, $34.8 million deal with Tampa Bay on Wednesday. He agreed to terms late Tuesday night, before other teams could speak to him at midnight.

"I couldn't be happier," Callahan said. "As enticing as free agency can sound, I know me and my family loved it (in Tampa), 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's annual salary and salary cap hit will be $5.8 million. He said a big sticking point was a no-move clause. It will be a full one for the first four seasons and a partial one for the final two. Callahan and his wife, Kyla, have a 2-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."

General manager Steve Yzerman said he acquired Callahan with the idea to sign him long term. Tampa Bay was impressed with his grit, work ethic and two-way style, Yzerman saying he really "fits a need on our team." Yzerman said Callahan's veteran presence is "extremely important" to the culture and to help 24-year-old captain Steven Stamkos.

Those qualities were the trade-off for giving a long-term deal to a player with Callahan's injury history, which last season included missing one game with a shoulder injury, seven with a broken thumb and nine with a sprained knee ligament.

"I love the way he plays," Yzerman said. "I can't hold it against him because he dives in front of a shot and breaks his (thumb). The injuries he had aren't things that are going to slow him down over time. Anybody can get hurt. With any long-term contract, there's a risk. The reality is if we want to sign Ryan Callahan, it would take a long-term contract.

"For us, the positives of keeping Ryan outweighed any concerns we had."

Yzerman said it was important to get Callahan signed by Tuesday, giving the Lightning a clearer picture of its needs and cap space (about $11.7 million, according to heading into free agency. The team has touched base with some defensemen (though not former Lightning Dan Boyle) and will look at backup goalies but not be active on forwards.

The re-signing completes the St. Louis deal by sending the Rangers a 2015 second-round pick. Tampa Bay will have an additional first-round pick this weekend and next year.

"I think we're building toward something good," said Callahan, who had six goals and five assists in 20 games for the Lightning last season. "I'm extremely excited."

Brown stays: The Lightning re-signed restricted free agent wing J.T. Brown to a two-year, $1.9 million deal. He had four goals and 15 assists in 63 games last season.