It's no secret the Tampa Bay Lightning will do everything in its capability to retain Ryan Callahan's services. And why should the team not? In only 20 regular season games dressed as a Bolt, Callahan recorded at least one point in half of his games in addition to scoring six goals overall. Compare that post-trade production to Martin St. Louis' one goal and eight points in 19 games with New York, the Lightning certainly did not get the short end of the stick.
The Lightning's desire to keep Callahan goes beyond his impressive numbers in only a short time with the team. There are multiple factors that could make Callahan an important member to a Lightning team that continues to improve from its home grown, developed talent.
Callahan's most notable contribution is his relentless playing style in front of the net. Some fans love it while others tire of it claiming that it's all he is good for, but examining his play with the Lightning thus far shows he provided a lacking element. One area this really benefits the team is on the power play. The Lightning typically plays a perimeter offense when shooting on goal with the man advantage, that was before Callahan came into the picture. Callahan's grittiness is crucial in helping detour opponents, deflect shots in the net, and score on rebounds. His presence in front of the net next season would be an overall improvement in scoring chances, regardless of man advantages or even strength. Callahan is by no means a primary goal scorer, and that is not what he is expected to be. The type of play he brings to the table, however, is possible in helping generate more points for the team. His plus-minus of plus-4 with the Lightning also makes this evident.
In conjunction with his gritty play in the blue paint, Callahan is also valuable on defense. In his last several years with the Rangers, New York's penalty kill has placed in the top 10 of the league, finishing third this last season. Callahan has been key in breaking up passing lanes with his stick, blocking shots, and racing toward the boards for loose pucks. A potential line comprised of him and left wing Ondrej Palat could be an ultimate game changer for the Lightning's penalty kill. Tampa Bay ranked 23rd overall in the NHL on the penalty kill this last season, indicating there is a need for improvement. Callahan, who finished second among Lightning forwards for most blocked shots, could very well correlate his grittiness over to the other end of the rink when needed in order to provide Tampa Bay with more of a defensive edge.
At age 29, Callahan provides an element that is unique to the Lightning, experience. Callahan's experience would not necessarily qualify as being relevant to most other NHL team rosters. With Tampa Bay primarily consisting of young players, however, Callahan's previous tenure with the Rangers is an important factor that could translate over well to the Lightning as many of its breakout players from last season continue to grow in talent. With unrestricted free agent Sami Salo potentially gone next year and excluding Ryan Malone at the moment, the only other players in a Lightning jersey with more NHL experience than Callahan are Valtteri Filppula and alternate captains Matt Carle and Eric Brewer. Behind Filppula, Callahan has played in the most NHL playoff games at 63. Keeping a player around like Callahan with as much experience of being a captain for a large market team could add a beneficial leadership role on and off the ice to a young Lightning team.
Overall, there are plenty of reasons that illustrate why Callahan is a vital asset for the Lightning and would be "worth" extending to have for the years to come. Worth, in this case, refers to more than just salary, as another unkept secret is Callahan's previous high salary demands. The Lightning will, if it already has not, offer Callahan a deal that is both fair and financially reasonable within its salary cap. Although Callahan is a piece that fits well into place for the Lightning, there is absolutely no reason the team should pay more than he is worth in reality. Ryan Callahan remaining a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning next season will ultimately come down to his desire to stay or not.
The ball is in your court, Ryan.