The dust has settled and in a deal that would have seemed laughable just a couple months ago, Martin St-Louis is a member of the New York Rangers. On the flipside, it’s only a little less shocking that his fellow NHL captain, Ryan Callahan, is now a member of the Lightning.
There’s no doubt both franchises got very good players – one more skilled, the other more well-rounded – and while Callahan was having a contract flap with Rangers GM Glen Sather, the shade thrown over St-Louis lately is impossible to ignore.
Here’s a Stanley Cup winner with two Art Ross trophies and one Hart under his belt as a member of the Bolts, but one leaving on dismal terms. Clearly St-Louis was hurt when GM Steve Yzerman cut him from the Canadian Olympic team, only half-making up for it by bringing the high-scoring winger when teammate Steven Stamkos couldn’t recover fast enough from injury. But if I’m a Tampa fan, I’m pretty upset with St-Louis right now.
Thanks to amazing goaltending from Ben Bishop, an upgraded defense corps and dynamic players up front, the Bolts were looking pretty dangerous this year, even with Stamkos out of the lineup. ‘Stammer’ announced today that he was now healthy from that leg injury and could have resumed his beautiful offensive relationship with St-Louis.
But not now. From Yzerman’s comments today, St-Louis initiated the trade talks, thus sabotaging Tampa Bay’s good vibes and damaging their chances of a long post-season run.
Hey, maybe a healthy Stamkos and the addition of Callahan is just as good. But there will always be a nagging question in Tampa if the Bolts bow out early this season while St-Louis reunites with Brad Richards on Broadway. And that’s on him, whether he cares or not.
Big picture, I wonder what this means for St-Louis’ legacy in Tampa Bay. Here’s a player who beat the odds and became an undersized star in the NHL, even when his first franchise, the Calgary Flames, couldn’t find a place for him. As previously mentioned, St-Louis has been fabulously successful in Tampa Bay and helped the Bolts win their only Cup to date, but they also gave him the chance to flourish; it was a symbiotic relationship.
So here’s a question: When St-Louis finally does hang up his skates, will the Lightning retire his jersey? Had the ugliness of the past week never surfaced, I would say it was a sure thing, but now it’s all in a different light. This is not like Ray Bourque leaving Boston or Jarome Iginla departing Calgary – those guys were team players who practically had to be pried out of the home dressing room because of their loyalty. With St-Louis, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tampa fans boo him the next time he comes to town.
Of course, the Rangers don’t have another regular season game in Tampa this season, so the next date could be in the playoffs. That would add yet another layer of intrigue on top of what quickly and surprisingly became a sordid affair.