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NHL trade rumors: Could the Tampa Bay Lightning put Ryan Callahan on LTIR to aid cap hit before the trade deadline?

Dealing with hip issues since late last season, Callahan could be the biggest question to answer for the Lightning before the deadline.

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Over the summer, Ryan Callahan had surgery to repair an injured hip suffered during the 2015-16 season. He missed eight games to start the year, plus the World Cup of Hockey, while recovering from surgery. He made his season debut just a couple weeks into the season on November 30th at the New York Rangers.

Callahan would play in 15 games over the next month. In that time span, he had two goals and two assists for four points, and was a plus-two. He didn’t look his best, but he was playing all right hockey.

Sadly, Callahan barely made it a month before being re-injured. Granted it was a brutal month with the team playing 15 games in 29 games, but it took its toll on the veteran. He returned after another month off and played in three games from January 3rd to January 7th before leaving the lineup once again.

So far, Callahan has avoided having another surgery on his hip. It does beg the question, though, if surgery is the next step if his latest attempt at rehab fails. The last thing the team wants is for Callahan to rush back only to hurt himself again and possibly be forced to retire if he can’t get his hip right.

The best thing that could happen for the Lightning right now, as far as the trade deadline goes, is for Callahan to be shut down for the rest of the season. The Lightning could then put him on Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR) and gain back some cap space while he is out. The team currently has Steven Stamkos on LTIR, which has helped with the salary cap while dealing with all of the injury issues the team has faced. However, the team can only take advantage of Stamkos’ cap space until he returns to the ice.

If Steve Yzerman were to acquire any players at the deadline, they would need to move an equivalent amount of salary out in the same deal or another deal. Otherwise, when Stamkos is ready to return, they would not be able to activate him and remain under the salary cap.

Callahan going on LTIR could be the difference, though. It could allow Yzerman to target a defenseman in the $4-$5 million cap hit range to help the team now, without needing to make a harder move that involves a salary swap. It could also be the best thing for Callahan and preserving his ability to play hockey in the future for the Tampa Bay Lightning.