New York Rangers trade rumors: Decision to be made on Ryan Callahan

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers may turn into sellers at the trade deadline, but not for the conventional reasons.

Since starting their season with just three wins in their first 10 -- and nine of those games on a marathon season-opening road trip -- the Rangers have pulled off a remarkable 29-17-3 stretch.

Regression from former Vezina-winning goalie Henrik Lundqvist, a clean bill of health for Rick Nash, and an anemic power play that has been transformed into the ninth-most efficient unit in the league have all come as improvements for a team finding its footing under new head coach Alain Vigneault.

Yet, having said all of that, the Rangers are potentially willing to sell off one of its biggest pieces; one who has been part of the organization for eight years. Ryan Callahan broke the ranks with the Rangers in 2006, and since that time has been instrumental in the team's success. He's their leading scorer over that span, and is their captain.

The issue for general manager Glen Sather and Co., however, is that Callahan is set to become a free agent this summer, and while the Rangers are only two years removed from a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, team brass has made it clear the objective is not to just let him walk away without getting some sort of compensation.

What could conceivably happen?

The rumors involving Callahan have intensified, with suitors like the Lightning, the Blues and the Kings all making noise. Martin St. Louis is the biggest name that's come up as a potential Callahan return.

Most scenarios that have arisen involve a one-for-one, ready-now top six forward player swap. But the problem that remains in moving Callahan is his agent's insistence on a pretty significant cap number. Paying a forward around $7 million annually for a term of five years or more is a steep asking price, especially when you factor in Callahan has never once hit the 30-goal plateau, and has been banged up this season with various injuries.

Callahan backed off a $7 million on Monday morning, according to reports, but he's still asking for well over $6 million per year on a long-term deal.

Dan Girardi's contract extension could too factor into the equation. His new five-year, $33 million extension means the Rangers have about $10 million per year committed to its top defensive pairing in Girardi and Ryan McDonagh for the next half-decade. Add in the extension Henrik Lundqvist received mid-season, and Rick Nash's term, and the Rangers don't have a ton of wiggle room to be handing out long-term, big money deals, even with the cap set to increase.

If Girardi and Callahan were an either/or situation, Girardi's extension might mean a Callahan trade is upcoming.

Other holes to plug

Mats Zuccarello is expected to miss the next two weeks after breaking his hand playing for Norway in the Olympics. While J.T. Miller will get the first crack to fill that gap on a call-up from the AHL, the team could look externally to throw another forward in the mix and add depth, which never hurts.

Outside of that, the Rangers will likely make do with the group they have.

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