All this trade talk hasn’t affected New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, who erupted for two first period goals and three points Tuesday to power his Blueshirts past the visiting Colorado Avalanche 5-1. It was the 28-year-old’s best single-game offensive output of the season, but more importantly, it was New York’s fourth consecutive win in their race to stay ahead of hard-charging Columbus for second place in the Metropolitan Division.
Callahan’s name has been the main grist for the rumor mills of late, with reports his agent had permission to talk to multiple teams about a contract extension for the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent. But the 28-year-old scored both his goals in a three-and-a-half-minute span late in the first period to set the tone for the Rangers, who have won seven of their past 10 games and are three points ahead of the Blue Jackets, who have a game in hand.
Callahan, who is heading to Sochi to play for Team U.S.A. during the Olympic break, took the same number of shifts (21) against Colorado as he did the previous game against the Islanders, but his shifts were shorter and he only played 17:05 against the Avs (as compared to 18:44 versus the Isles). A more cynical type of person might suggest he’s showcasing himself for a trade, but Callahan isn’t regarded as a selfish person and it’s unfair to imagine he’s simply flipped a competitive switch to give his game a boost.
Still, with reports stating that Rangers GM Glen Sather has given Callahan until the NHL Olympic roster freeze kicks in at 3 p.m. this Friday to agree to an extension or be shipped out, it’s also reasonable to imagine that the right winger understands he can create options for himself with strong play in these crucial next few days.
To be sure, Callahan remains on a scoring pace far below the 29-goal, 54-point campaign he had for the Rangers in 2011-12 and any team who wants to step up and meet his considerable contract requests will be taking a risk on him. But the NHL’s trade market is going to be weak when it comes to his combination of offensive touch and robust physical game. If he can continue to step up during the Blueshirts’ final two games before the break (Thursday at home against the Oilers and Friday on the road in Pittsburgh), his demands – and/or the Rangers’ trade demands – will only rise.