Apr 18, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Ryan Callahan (24) skates against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period in game two of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Montreal Canadiens defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Callahan: Tampa Bay’s New Mistake

We haven’t even reach July 1st and Ryan Callahan’s new contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning is already the odds-on favorite to be the worst doled out this summer.

Mar 13, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Ryan Callahan (24) reacts after he made a shot on goal and missed against the Florida Panthers during the second period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 13, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Ryan Callahan (24) reacts after he made a shot on goal and missed against the Florida Panthers during the second period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As we discussed earlier NHL Rumors: Ryan Callahan Staying in Tampa (Updated, Callahan Signs) Tampa Bay kicked off the free agent season with a thunderous BANG and locked up the winger to a six-year, $34.8 million contract which includes a limited no-trade clause. In a word: wow.

If you just listened to the national telecasts or his home team’s broadcasts, you’d think that the contract is a fair one for Ryan Callahan (you’d probably also think that Callahan delivers babies in his spare time and rescues puppies for fun). I mean, he’s a “heart and soul” guy. He’s “gritty.” He’s a “leader.” He brings all those intangibles beyond the score sheet that you just can’t put a price on. Well, except in this case, Tampa Bay did. And a hefty price it is.

This is not to say that Ryan Callahan isn’t a solid, NHL caliber player. He sure is. In fact, you can make the case that he’s a very good third-liner in this league. But the last I checked third-liners shouldn’t be making $5,800,000 a year. And by every calculation- traditional stats, fancy stats, my own eyes- Ryan Callahan is nothing more than a third-line player.

He’ll score a few goals if he’s in the right place at the right time. He’ll throw a big hit every game or so just to keep up appearances. He’ll block some shots because he’s always chasing the puck in his own end and needs to compensate somehow. All things a third-liner does.

This really isn’t to knock Ryan Callahan. There’s no shame in having that role and Lord knows he’s getting compensated handsomely for it. But I’d love to know what Steve Yzerman is really thinking here.

Leadership? Well, he was captain of the Rangers. The same Ranger team that advanced past the second round only once during his tenure. The same Ranger that didn’t miss a beat when they shipped off their captain to Tampa Bay at the trade deadline and had its best finish in 20 years. Even the quotes after Ryan Callahan was traded from his ex-teammates didn’t exactly give you the feeling the fellas were going to spend the next few days in their rooms crying over his loss.

Grit? Yes, that’s nice I guess. Of course there are a dozen guys available July 1st that could give you grit for a quarter of the price. Plus when someone calls a player “gritty,” isn’t it just code for “not very talented but gives 100%?”

Playoff experience? Sure, he has some of that. 63 games of it in fact. However, he’s only produced 24 points during those games, which is an even worse rate that his regular season numbers. And the majority of that is playing top-6 minutes. Oh, his four games in Tampa Bay’s dismissal this post-season? No points. But he did manage five shots on goal…

He hits? Okay, he does some of that. Not as much as he used to, and probably will continue to do less and less of it as he gets older. Yes, he’s only 29 years old, but he’s battled injuries in the past and when you’re under 6’ and less than 200 pounds, it’s not easy to keep throwing your weight around and maintain effectiveness.

Since the signing I’ve seen a lot of comparisons (jokingly) of Ryan Callahan to Ryan Malone. While those aren’t completely off-base, I keep coming back to Ryan Smyth. More specifically, the Smyth that signed with the Avalanche after the 2007 season. Callahan is nowhere near the offensive player that Smyth was, but both are lauded for being gritty, blue-collar, hard-nosed players. By the end of his contract Smyth was a shell of himself. That’s pretty much how I expect Callahan’s contract to go: okay the first few years, beaten down the last few. I guess that’s the price of doing business.

Yzerman has done an admirable job building the Lightning roster and having enough talent on the farm and draft picks to sustain success. But he struck out big time with Ryan Callahan’s contract, and it’s only a matter of time before the buyer’s remorse kicks in.

Tags: Ryan Callahan Steve Yzerman Tampa Bay Lightning

  • Kara

    I’ll wait and see before passing judgement. The same thing was primarily said about Filppula when he first came to Tampa Bay.

    • Lauren Burg

      Agreed. Filppula wasn’t supposed to pan out, yet ended up being a huge source of production when Stamkos went down injured.

      • Tasha Meares

        Actually, I always knew that Filppula was going to be a good asset for the team. I said that from day one. I still have my apprehensions about Callahan, though.

  • MH

    Filpillula’s game isn’t based on trying to be overly physical. Callahan tries to play like a power forward and his body is declining because of it. Unfortunately for him he isn’t skilled enough offensively to compensate. So instead we hear things like he’s “gritty”, a “leader” , etc. to make it sound like he’s this wonderful all-around player.

    At $3 mil per year, it’s a good deal. At $5.8- it’s a disaster

  • Jagr

    Biased much? For a team so young and full of potential, the only other gritty player we have is JT Brown, aka JT Brownahan any guesses why? The way the second line of him filper and killorn cycled and possessed the puck was crazy, and thats only with 20 games wih his new club so cut him some slack. We need a guy like him, better version of Clarkson in toronto which is why he’s getting paid a bit more.

  • MH

    It’s not bias. It’s watching his game decline the last several seasons that would have me worried over the course of this deal. And as I explained in the post, I think his “intangibles” are vastly overrated. He’s a 3rd line player getting paid top line money. In a capped world, that’s bad business. And no amount of “grit”, “leadership”, “jam” or any other similar word from him will make up the difference because he isn’t the same player he was 3 or 4 years ago.