TAMPA — Ryan Callahan has settled in nicely to his new Davis Islands waterfront home, him and his wife, Kyla, making room for their new baby girl, Evelyn, born two months ago.
The couple has taken their oldest daughter, Charlotte, 2, to the zoo, started her in preschool and bought a membership for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
Rochester, N.Y., will always be his hometown, but Callahan, after signing a six-year, $34.8 million extension with Tampa Bay in June, said he's ready to put down some roots in this area.
"It starts to feel like home," he said. "It takes a little bit of time, obviously, I'm really happy to spend the next years now and eventually call this my home."
Callahan, 29, acquired from the Rangers in the Marty St. Louis deal March 5, has also felt more at home with the Lightning, resulting in more active leadership, not to mention a large role on the ice as the team prepares to open the season Thursday at Amalie Arena.
"You definitely feel a lot more comfortable," Callahan said. "It's tough to come in and be vocal and assert your leadership on a group when you come in (March). I feel a lot more comfortable in the room, with the coaching staff and hopefully that translates with my play."
Bringing back Callahan might have been the most important of all the Lightning's offseason moves. Callahan is a heart-and-soul type player, a relentless forward who plays in all situations, from screening goaltenders on the power play to diving in front of shots on the penalty kill. And the gritty 5-foot-11, 190-pound right wing threw his body around this preseason as if it were the playoffs.
"There's definitely not an on-off switch for Callahan," coach Jon Cooper said. "He's just on."
"He's got an inspiring quality about him," says Brian Boyle, his former teammate with the Rangers.
Callahan could have fielded offers from the 29 other teams starting July 1, when he became an unrestricted free agent. But Callahan was determined to stay with Tampa Bay, leaving money on the table to sign June 25.
When he signed early, the Lightning got a better idea of what its needs were heading into free agency, as well as how much money it had left. And Callahan helped court former Rangers teammates Boyle and defenseman Anton Stralman to sign with Tampa Bay.
"He didn't have to say much," Boyle said. "I asked him if he liked it and he said he did. That's all I really needed to hear."
Callahan always hoped he'd finish his career with the Rangers, who drafted him in the fourth round in 2004 and made him their captain. But after some unsuccessful — and public — contract talks last season, admittedly tough on Callahan, he got sent with two draft picks to Tampa Bay for St. Louis.
"It was shocking," Boyle said. "There were tears in guys' eyes, I know that."
The night of the trade, Callahan was pleasantly surprised that Cooper picked him up from the airport, saying it put him at ease.
"It meant a lot to me," Callahan said.
Cooper said for the 20 games Callahan played with Tampa Bay last season, plus the playoffs, the veteran was just trying to fit in. But Callahan made a strong impression, not just for the six goals and five assists. Boyle said he'd be surprised if Callahan wasn't an alternate captain this season.
"He's one of those guys that the moment he gets here, we don't even know him, but there's that respect factor because of the way he plays," captain Steven Stamkos said. "What he brings, his intangibles, his fearlessness on the ice. You look at a guy you want to be on your team come those tough situations, it's Cally."
Callahan said his family loved the area; his parents even flew down from Rochester a few times. Callahan was excited by the team's direction, believing it can contend for several years, and wants to be a part of it.
Said Callahan: "Couldn't have landed in a better spot."
Contact Joe Smith at j[email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.