The post-Olympic NHL is buzzing with rumors of trade talk between the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning involving some significant pieces – Ranger captain Ryan Callahan and Lightning captain Marty St. Louis.
To which I would say two things:
1. Where there is smoke, there is or perhaps has been a little fire. Or, in other words, the two teams would appear to have at least spoken. And spoken is defined as one calling the other to inquire, no more, no less.
2. The real question, though, is what is the latest and greatest information. Or, in other words, is this a story that is a couple of weeks old, just now finally coming to light and perhaps outdated?
If it's the latter, and either Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman doesn't intend to trade St. Louis or St. Louis doesn't want to be traded (he has a full No Move Clause), one or both of them may want to put the kaibosh on this story real fast now that they're back from Sochi. That's their call, but the Lighting are an Eastern Conference contender and letting this take on a life of its own is going to make for an unsettled week to 10 days leading up to the March 5 trade deadline.
Ultimately, the larger issue is where is St. Louis's mindset at right now? Does he want to remain captain of the Lightning?
There is reason to believe in the immediate aftermath of his Jan. 7 snub from the Canadian Olympic team, in some form or another, St. Louis indicated to the Bolts he may look favorably on a move out of Tampa.
We have to be careful here not to get too hung up on semantics. Was it a trade demand? A trade request? A conversation? Was it St. Louis speaking directly to Yzerman or was it some form of communication between St. Louis's agent Lewis Gross and the organization?
While none of the principals were confirming or denying anything in those days and weeks after the initial snub, talk in the NHL community was rife that St. Louis wanted out. There was even talk – again, nothing with an absolute confirmation -- that the only place St. Louis would waive his No Move Clause for was the New York Rangers. His off-season home is just outside NYC, in Connecticut.
If the NYR or bust account is accurate, it would certainly explain the St. Louis rumors coming out of NYC the last few days and the talk of Callahan for St. Louis.
But here's the problem on that front.
Tampa, especially now that Steven Stamkos is closer to returning, is a potential Eastern contender. St. Louis is a huge part of the Lightning attack and if you take a primary offensive catalyst out of the Bolts' lineup now, it's difficult to believe it could be accomplished with Ranger captain Callahan coming the other way on an expiring contract. Yzerman would want and need more from the Rangers than that.
And as long as we presume the Lightning want to remain a contender in the East this season, trading St. Louis for future considerations or younger, unproven players presents its own set of unique problems in the short term. As for the Rangers, they're not about to start giving up draft picks, prospects or young players for a 38-year-old. So the Tampa-NYR fit doesn't appear to be there.
Even if there were a fit, when it's all said and done, nothing happens if St. Louis doesn't want it to happen. His NMC guarantees that. If he feels more strongly about staying in Tampa now that he's played for Team Canada in the Olympics than he may have in the aftermath of the Jan. 7 snub, then the trade stories out of NYC are old news recycled as new.
But if St. Louis would look favorably on a move now, even if it's only to NYC, then the ball is back squarely in the Lightning's court to decide if there's any desire to oblige him and whether there's even a deal to be made.
The way I see it, Yzerman isn't making any move in the short term unless it totally suits his purposes and IF he is contemplating trading St. Louis, it may make as much or more sense to do it in the summer as now.
Or maybe St. Louis and the Lightning are going to live happily ever after. If that's the case, they'll no doubt let us know. Or not.
In the meantime, we'll just sit tight to see how this one plays out but it sure seems as though it has way too many moving parts.