Ryan Callahan’s Lightning tenure likely ended this season

The veteran forward’s leadership could interest other teams this offseason.
Lightning fans may not get another chance to see Ryan Callahan celebrate goals in a Tampa Bay uniform like this March 21 game-winner against Carolina. [AP Photo/Gerry Broome]
Lightning fans may not get another chance to see Ryan Callahan celebrate goals in a Tampa Bay uniform like this March 21 game-winner against Carolina. [AP Photo/Gerry Broome]
Published May 21

(This is the 18th in a series this month looking at each player on the Lightning’s roster. Up next: Louis Domingue)

TAMPA — Ryan Callahan got all too familiar with the press boxes of the NHL this season. The 33-year-old has always dealt with injuries, but this year he often watched the game as a healthy scratch.

When the coaches took Callahan out of the regular lineup after the all-star break, it clearly represented a low point for the former Ranger captain. Even more, Callahan’s ice time dipped to a career low.

He played 52 games this season, between injuries and scratches. Of regular players, only Adam Erne averaged less time on the ice. It’s a big difference for Callahan, who was second to Stamkos in his first season with the Lightning.

[ MORE LIGHTNING: A player-by-player review of Tampa Bay's season ]

In short, the Lightning prioritized Matheiu Joseph’s speed and Adam Erne’s size and physicality. Callahan is strong on the forecheck but not the kind of skater Tampa Bay gravitates toward.

Callahan’s Lightning tenure likely came to an end this season. The manner in which he handled the disappointment of not playing could prolong his career.

Even as a healthy scratch, Callahan managed to demonstrate his value. He maintained his leadership role and provided a spark when he got in the lineup.

Asked about needing more pieces at the trade deadline, both Julien BriseBois and Jon Cooper pointed to the team scratching a player of Callahan’s caliber (Cooper with a trace of incredulity in his voice). Nikita Kucherov, in the middle of a media scrum he didn’t want to do about his suspension, gave a long answer about Callahan’s meaning to the team as he got a chance in Game 3.

Respect is all well and good, but it doesn’t mean much for Callahan’s future with the Lightning. He has one year remaining on his $5.8 million contract and that’s a lot to pay for someone not playing much.

Callahan’s modified no-trade clause requires him to submit a 16-team trade list, according to CapFriendly.com. He may well find himself playing for one of those teams next year.

[ ALSO IN THE SERIES: Mathieu Joseph proves youth will be served ]

Why would another team want a player who didn’t even play much this year? Well, few teams are as deep as the Lightning. While he was scratched by Tampa Bay, he likely would have found more playing time in almost any other lineup.

A team that needs a strong dressing room presence may be very interested in Callahan. He broadly receives universal praise for his leadership, a trait sought by plenty of other teams.

The Lightning may not seek a high return on Callahan, but it should find a willing market for him.

Ryan Callahan’s season

High: Callahan scored the game-winning goal against Florida on Feb. 10, his first goal since being taken out of the lineup.

Low: Callahan continued to deal with injuries, including his back seizing up during warmups in Vancouver on Dec. 18.

By the numbers

11:08 of average ice time per game, the lowest since Callahan’s first NHL appearance

0 complete seasons. The 13-year veteran has never played 82 games.

14 penalty minutes, the lowest average per game of any forward on the Lightning

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