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Numbers Game: St. Louis to Rangers; Callahan to Lightning

Scott Cullen
3/5/2014 1:23:38 PM
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The first trade on NHL Trade Deadline Day may well be the biggest, with the defending Art Ross Trophy winner getting moved.

Numbers Game examines the deal that sees Martin St. Louis and Ryan Callahan swapping places.

The Rangers Get: RW Martin St. Louis.

St. Louis, 38, is the highest scoring player in the league since 2009-2010, tallying 388 points (131 G, 257 A) in 351 games and led the league in scoring last season, with 60 points in 48 games. There's no reason, despite his age, to believe that St. Louis suddenly won't be able to keep producing offensively.

While St. Louis has never been an exceptional possession player, he's thrived alongside Steven Stamkos, one of the premier finishers in the game, which has resulted in a consistently high high on-ice shooting percentage.

There aren't a lot of players that can maintain those percentages but St. Louis has been able to produce an on-ice shooting percentage above 10% every season, including the current season, during which he's spent most of his year skating with rookies Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. So, if St. Louis gets re-united with former Lightning linemate Brad Richards, there is a fair chance for that line -- with Carl Hagelin on the left side -- to be productive, definitely more productive than they have been with Callahan in that spot.

St. Louis is under contract for one more season, at a cap hit of $5.625-million, but there is an advantage built in for the Rangers when it comes to signing him to an extension. Since New York was St. Louis' preferred destination, it's reasonable enough to think that the Blueshirts will be able to keep him as long as he keeps scoring.

The Lightning Get: RW Ryan Callahan, a second-round pick, a 2015 first-round pick and an additional conditional pick.

While Callahan, 28, is universally praised for his heart, work ethic and determination, those are qualities that are awfully difficult to put a value on and, in the Rangers' case they were more inclined to deal Callahan for St. Louis' more tangible benefits.

This isn't to say that Callahan doesn't provide his own tangible value -- he has 120 goals since 2008-2009, which ranks 50th -- but he tends towards middling puck possession numbers, including this year even though he's starting a career-high 60.4% shifts in the offensive zone this year.

With St. Louis moving on, there are some interesting opportunities available for Lightning forwards. While Callahan is one player who could benefit, anyone that ends up with Stamkos is obviously in a good situation. Teddy Purcell, Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov are other wingers that could get a turn on Stamkos' wings.

Indications, leading up to this trade, were that Callahan was looking at a six-year deal worth more than $6-million per season. It's entirely understandable that the Lightning won't be inclined to pay that price to keep Callahan long-term, which would effectively make him a rental and therefore make the draft picks a more important facet of the deal.

The second-round pick this year could be a first-round pick if the Rangers reach the Eastern Conference Final, the Lightning also get the Rangers' first-round pick in 2015. If Callahan re-signs in Tampa Bay, the Rangers would get Tampa Bay's second-round pick while sending a seventh-round pick to New York.

The accumulated value of a mid-first and a second-round pick yields, on average, about a 95% chance of landing an NHL player, so it's reasonable to see that the Lightning should get some long-term benefit out of St. Louis' departure, but that's trying to making the most out of a bad situation, a situation that reached a breaking point when stories started to take hold that St. Louis had asked to be moved out of Tampa Bay.

St. Louis is a rare talent, an elite point producer, and no matter how much depth the Lightning are accumulating throughout their organization -- and they have a great crop of young forwards -- it's tough to make up for losing a player of St. Louis' calibre, particularly in the short-term.

If the Lightning were committed to making a run in a relatively open Eastern Conference, perhaps riding a career season from goaltender Ben Bishop, it might have made more sense to wait until summer to make this deal, but maybe the situation behind the scenes just wasn't tenable.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.



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