The New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning swapped disgruntled captains at the 2014 NHL Trade Deadline, which is quite rare in any sport in today’s day and age. After being distraught over being left off of Team Canada’s initial 2014 Olympic squad, Martin St. Louis expressed his feelings to general manager of Canada and Tampa Bay Steve Yzerman, eventually forcing a trade to New York. And, once the Rangers decided they had gone as far as they were willing to go for a new contract with Ryan Callahan, New York opted to ship its captain to Tampa Bay for St. Louis. While both teams will look quite different down the stretch this season, will this blockbuster deal produce a clear cut winner?
That depends on your time frame.
Immediately, it appears as if the Rangers may have gotten the better end of this deal. St. Louis may be 10 years older than Callahan, but he still puts up much better numbers on offense. Through 63 games this season, St. Louis has recorded 29 goals and 62 total points, while Callahan has amassed just 11 goals and 25 total points in 45 games, due to an injury. Both players will bring a lot to their team in terms of chemistry and leadership, but there is no doubt that St. Louis is still the better player as of this moment.
Looking ahead, however, it may be the Lightning who get the best of this trade. Sure, Callahan is a free agent after this season, meaning he could bolt without Tampa Bay receiving much compensation. St. Louis still has one year remaining on his deal with the Rangers, but New York also had to send a 2015 first round draft pick as well as a 2014 second round draft pick back to Tampa Bay. With a deep draft class expected over the next couple of years, it may be the Lightning who wind up being declared winners of this deal.
Still, that will not happen for a couple of years, at the earliest. The Rangers were not going anywhere with Callahan this season. Entering play on Thursday, New York is holding on to the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Tampa Bay would be the No. 5 seed if the playoffs started today. Neither team has played with the consistency that many had hoped for, yet the entire Eastern Conference is seen as fairly wide open this season. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins are clearly the top two teams in the conference, but the Lightning and Rangers cannot be counted out, provided they still qualify for postseason play. While other teams also made some big moves right before the deadline, it will be the Rangers and Lightning who will receive the most talk after pulling off the biggest deal on Wednesday.
Only time will tell if it ends up making either team much better than they were entering yesterday.
And that time may not be for another year or two, at the earliest.