Ryan Callahan's decision to sign a six-year, $34.8 million contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning takes one of the most attractive potential unrestricted free agents off the market, the first domino to fall in what promises to be a busy week heading into Friday's NHL entry draft.
The agreement, officially reached Wednesday morning, is a minor coup for Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, who acquired Callahan from the New York Rangers in exchange for Martin St. Louis at the NHL trading deadline, plus first-round draft choices in both the 2014 and the 2015 NHL entry drafts.
The 2014 pick was upgraded to a first from a conditional second when the Rangers reached the Eastern Conference finals. However, by getting Callahan to sign, the Lightning now gives up their 2015 second-rounder for Callahan.
But if you believe that the 2015 entry draft is top heavy in talented, the complicated exchange of St. Louis – a 38-year-old with a year remaining on his contract, who asked out of Tampa for a player almost a decade younger – means Yzerman received significant value in return. Yzerman described Callahan as a "a fierce competitor and outstanding leader who fits very well with our team" – which includes a lot of up-and-coming prospects, but was shy on veteran leadership.
Callahan, meanwhile, said in a prepared statement: "couldn't be happier to be part of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization for the next six years and I am excited for this new chapter of my career. Tampa Bay has been a great place to live and play from the day I got there. As soon as the season ended I knew it was a place I wanted to be."
In the 20 games he played for the Lightning after the trade, Callahan scored six goals and 11 points. The former Rangers' captain is considered a valuable dressing-room leader and is adept on the power play. Altogether, 47 of his career 138 goals have been scoring with the man advantage.
Also, the Lightning used their second and final compliance buyout on forward Ryan Malone.
Malone was entering the final year of a seven year, $31.5-million contract. The buyout will cost the Lightning $833,333 over the next two years.
Acquired from Pittsburgh in June 2008, Malone had 92 goals and 201 points in 342 games with the Lightning. Slowed by injuries, he had five goals and 15 points in 57 games last season.
Malone was charged with DUI and possession of cocaine two months ago after a traffic stop in Tampa.
With files from The Associated Press