In every sport, whether your team wins or loses, there is always someone to either praise or blame. And after winning tonight’s Game 7, I think the Tampa Bay Lightning are going to be thanking the New York Rangers for some time.
Last March, 2014, the Lightning and Rangers were two of the best teams in the East. Both teams were in the midst of the playoff race, and both were looking to add some firepower to their respective lineups. But where would each team look for a potential trade partner? How about each other.
One important thing to note is that Martin St. Louis had asked for a trade out of Tampa Bay. The main reason St. Louis wanted out was due to the fact that he was left off of Team Canada’s Olympic roster, by Steve Yzerman, who is the GM of both Tampa Bay and Canada. St. Louis was eventually added to the roster because of an injury to teammate Steven Stamkos, but that didn’t change anything.
As Yzerman was looking around the league for a trade partner, the New York Rangers fell right into his lap. The Lightning and Rangers quickly agreed on a trade that involved St. Louis going to New York, and Ryan Callahan, along with two draft picks, going back to Tampa Bay. Right off the bat, it was a great trade for the Rangers because they acquired the player the needed, but to just trade away your captain like that was a little sketchy.
For the rest of the 2014 season, that trade benefitted both teams. The Lightning got some veteran leadership and cruised into the playoffs, while the Rangers found a nice hot streak and solidified their place in the postseason as well. Unfortunately for the Lightning, they were swept by the Montreal Canadiens, and sent home rather quickly. As for the Rangers, they had an incredible run during the playoffs, with great help from Martin St. Louis, and went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
At the time it was a disappointment for the Lightning, but since the Rangers made it to the Conference Final, the 2014 second round pick that was in the trade turned into a first rounder. And it didn’t stop there. With free agency approaching, Tampa Bay had a key component for any possible deals, and that was Ryan Callahan. Callahan re-signed with the Lightning in June, on a six-year deal, and it was extremely important. Callahan was able to bring in two of his ex-teammates, Brian Boyle, a very good 4th-liner and face-off man, and a young stud defenseman, Anton Stralman.
During the 2015 season, these three players were very important to the Lightning, and led them to the fourth best point total in the NHL. Callahan was tremendous on the top line with Steven Stamkos, while scoring 24 goals, and he finished with 54 points. He was also a huge physical presence as he totaled 184 hits. Boyle played his usual role on the fourth line and the penalty kill, and Stralman took a huge step forward in his development and has become one of the best young defenseman in the league.
Even though the Rangers have gotten plenty of production from Martin St. Louis over the last season and a half, that trade has benefited the Lightning greatly, and will continue to do so for years to come. St. Louis began to show his age in this year’s playoffs, only putting up seven points, and not showing the speed he obviously once had. This season also could have been the final one in a long, and outstanding career for St. Louis.
Meanwhile, the Lightning ended receiving a top winger in Callahan, a great penalty killer in Boyle, and an up-and-coming stud in Stralman. Not to mention they selected a top prospect in Anthony DeAngelo, and have another first round pick in the upcoming draft. I don’t think a 5-for-1 player deal is too shabby.
Overall, the trade that occurred last March has benefitted both teams, but moving forward, the edge fully goes to Tampa Bay. They got three players who are going to be key parts of the team moving forward, and are only going to get better. Looking back at it now, I think Yzerman is smiling for leaving St. Louis off of that roster.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Thomas Buckley