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.
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.