Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rangers, Callahan agree: Three years, $13 million

Ryan Callahan and the Rangers avoided arbitration by agreeing on a three-year deal worth a reported $13 million. The breakdown hasn't been posted yet but it'll cost the club an average of $4.33 million per season. A shade higher than the four-year contract Brandon Dubinsky signed last week, which is a cap hit of $4.2 million.

Both gritty American forwards, who teamed with Russian Artem Anisimov on the Draft Line to the tune of 65 of the Blueshirts' 224 goals (29 percent), are building blocks that helped get the Original Six club to its fifth postseason in six years since the lockout. Quite an accomplishment considering Callahan broke his right leg after diving in front of a Zdeno Chara point blast, which ended his season earlier than desired. The Rangers rallied for Cally, qualifying on the second to final day when their win over Hudson rival New Jersey combined with Carolina's loss to Tampa Bay clinched it.

Minus their emotional leader, the Rangers fought valiantly but fell to the Caps in five in a closely contested first round. Offense was at a premium with his team only able to score eight goals with Dubinsky's pair pacing them. John Tortorella consequently broke up Dubinsky and Anisimov, which definitely didn't help solve the scoring woes. In a physical series where they could've used Callahan's presence especially in front of the net, it was too much to overcome against a more skilled opponent. Not to say they'd have exacted revenge against Washington if No.24 played but the sides would've been a lot more even.

Despite missing 22 games during the regular season, the 26-year old Rochester native had his best year, setting new career highs in goals (23), assists (25), and points (48), while pacing the club with 10 power play goals and five game-winners. A fourth round steal back in the '04 Draft, Callahan's become the classic overachiever who gets the most out of his 5-11, 185 pound frame, never hesitating to finish a check. A solid overall player who can be deployed in any situation, he's combined with buddy Dubinsky to help form a potent penalty killing duo that can strike shorthanded at any moment. It's his desire to compete that comes out, winning fans over with the kind of style New Yorkers identify with.

While Cally will never be confused talent-wise with Dubinsky, his effort is second to none, which explains why the general consensus is that he should eventually replace recently bought out Chris Drury as the Rangers' next captain. Outside of Henrik Lundqvist and perhaps Marc Staal, you can make the argument that nobody means more to the Rangers' chances than the hard nosed right wing who plays with an edge.

The only drawback is how he plays, which could make him injury prone. Probably why the Rangers gave him three years instead of four with sidekick Dubi (6' 1", 210)better equipped for that taxing style. Each have missed time due to injuries the past couple of years. No doubt our team is much more effective when they're healthy, dishing out the punishment.

With Brad Richards expected to boost the offense sans Marian Gaborik, it should relieve pressure, hopefully allowing our second line to stay intact. Though the choices of buyout candidate Wojtek Wolski, Ruslan Fedotenko, Erik Christensen, Mats Zuccarello and Sean Avery, aren't overwhelming enough for Tortorella to consider trying Dubinsky on the top line. What that potentially does for Anisimov and Callahan remains to be seen. Even if Callahan is the main ingredient that makes it work.

The good news is Glen Sather has had a superb summer, sticking to the plan. After adding new enforcer Mike Rupp and top pivot Richards, he took care of business, re-signing Anisimov, Brian Boyle, Dubinsky, Steve Eminger and Callahan. A look at the roster makes one wonder if they'll retain Wolski.


NEW YORK RANGERS DEPTH CHART

G-Lundqvist, Biron, Johnson, Talbot, Stajcer, Missiaen

D-Staal, Girardi, McDonagh, Sauer, Eminger, Del Zotto, Erixon, Valentenko, Kundratek, McIlrath, Pashnin, Klassen

C-Richards, Anisimov, Stepan, Boyle, Christensen, Mitchell, Newbury, Lindberg, Miller, St. Croix, Fogarty 

LW-Dubinsky, Wolski, Prust, Avery, Zuccarello, Hagelin, Kreider, Bourque, Kveton

RW-Gaborik, Callahan, Fedotenko, Rupp, Weise, Kolarik, Thuresson, Thomas, McColgan

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