What did it take for Tampa to deal St. Louis? Getting a guy with ‘snarl’

Ryan Callahan had 132 goals and 254 points in seven-plus seasons with the New York Rangers.

Eric Hartline

TAMPA, Fla. — After his initial stun had disappeared, Ryan Callahan was excited about his new home with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

”I think first initial emotions are a little bit of shock and surprise that I got traded there,” Callahan said. ”After that goes away, I start to get a bit of excitement knowing that I’m going to Tampa, which is a great organization and a good team that is in the playoff picture right now.”

A whirlwind day that included the start of ”a different era” for the Lightning, as Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman called it, also saw the 28-year-old winger leave the New York Rangers — the only franchise he had played for in the NHL. Both Yzerman and Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper were careful to call Callahan a different player than St. Louis, a staple for the Lightning the past 12-plus seasons.

Still, Tampa Bay has received an intriguing addition in a blockbuster deal that was finalized hours before the NHL’s trade deadline.

Callahan, the Rangers’ former captain, prides himself on his ability to finish checks, block shots and be an effective member of a penalty kill. He’s a four-time winner of the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, a sign of his physicality and potential value for the Lightning.

”He fills a need for us,” Yzerman said. ”He’s not replacing Marty St. Louis. He’s a different type of player. He can play in all situations. He kills penalties. He’s a great shot-blocker. He’s probably most well-known for his penalty killing, his defensive ability and his shot-blocking ability. (He’s) very good in front of the net on the power play.”

Like St. Louis’ move to New York, Callahan’s transition to Tampa Bay will require adjustment. The native of Rochester, N.Y., has spent the past seven-plus years with the Rangers since being selected 127th overall in the 2004 NHL draft.

Tampa Bay Lightning news

Callahan has played in 450 career NHL games, earning 132 goals and 254 points. His career-best season came during the 2011-12 campaign, when he produced 54 points, 29 goals, 13 power-play goals and nine game-winning goals. He also won a silver medal as a member of the 2010 United States team at the Vancouver Games, which included current Lightning winger Ryan Malone.

This year, Callahan has played in 45 games, posting 25 points and 11 goals. He had a season-best five-game point streak from Oct. 11-Nov. 7, during which he had five goals and two assists.

Callahan understands his greatest challenge: Creating his own reputation in St. Louis’ absence.

”I don’t think you can let yourself feel that,” Callahan said of possible pressure in following St. Louis. ”It’s no secret what Marty did for that organization, how great of a player he is. At the same time, I’m a different person, I’m a different player. All I can do is come in and try to bring what I can bring to the team in my own way.”

Callahan’s future had been in question for weeks. He’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, and he was close to re-signing with the Rangers with the team reportedly offering a six-year, $36 million extension.

But the Rangers’ desire to deal for St. Louis, who waived his no-trade clause, proved stronger. Yzerman said the Lightning have acquired Callahan ”with the hopes of re-signing him.”

For now, Callahan said he’s only concerned with gaining comfort in his new home.

”That’s the biggest thing for me right now is just to get in there and get comfortable with my surroundings and then once you do that, you can look at something like (re-signing),” he said.

On a day of change, the Lightning lost a face of their franchise in St. Louis. But as they move forward, Callahan’s skill appeals to them.

”If there’s one area that we needed to get better in, that was a little bit with a couple guys that play with a little bit of snarl,” Cooper said. ”And Ryan Callahan is going to bring us that.”

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.