- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Trade talk involving Ryan Callahan is only certain to intensify in the week leading up to Friday’s Olympic roster freeze, but it won’t be the Rangers captain fanning any of the flames.
Callahan was asked after practice Saturday about the persisting speculation, but he politely shut down the line of questioning.
“I’m not going to talk about that stuff now,” he said. “I don’t think it’s productive to the process, the negotiations or anything.”
New York Rangers
The pending unrestricted free agent has yet to re-sign a contract extension with the Rangers, who are currently exploring the trade market for the 28-year-old winger in the event the two sides can’t come to an agreement.
As ESPNNewYork.com reported Friday night, the Rangers have granted permission to multiple teams to speak with his agent, Steve Bartlett. A source informed ESPNNewYork.com on Saturday that at least one team has already taken advantage of such talks with his camp, though it is not immediately clear just how substantive those discussions were.
Multiple sources told ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun that the Rangers made an offer of five years, $30 million to Callahan, though he is believed to be seeking a seven-year deal at that annual salary.
With all the distractions around him, Callahan has remained a consummate professional. He was on the ice Saturday, smiling and partaking in the Rangers' game of on-ice football during the first half of practice.
Both his teammates and coach praised his professionalism and poise in dealing with the situation.
"In Ryan’s case, he’s been a real professional. He’s kept that part of his life away from his teammates and away from the dressing room,” Alain Vigneault said. “Obviously, he understands that you [the media] have questions, and he answers those questions in a professional manner, but at the end of the day his job is to come here and get ready, help his teammates get ready, to go out and perform. He’s done that remarkably since day one. That part hasn’t changed.”
Twenty-three-year-old center Derek Stepan, who experienced his own protracted contract negotiations that held him out of the preseason earlier this year, said he can empathize with what Callahan is going through.
“It’s the business side of the sport,” Stepan said. “When I was going through it, the biggest thing was to make sure not to try to make it personal. You try to keep your spirits up and understand that this is the way it is.”
Callahan has done that with ease and grace, according to Stepan.
“I give Cally a ton of credit,” Stepan said. “You see him come to the rink and he’s the same Cally I’ve been with for four years. He understands it. He’s not taking it personal, and he’s just going through the process. He’s doing everything he can to make sure he ends up in a Rangers uniform.”
So will he?
It’s at least worth pointing out that times deemed awfully dire in both Stepan’s contract situation and that of franchise goaltender Henrik Lundqvist earlier this season. Relations appeared strained, at times bordering on acrimonious. In both cases, things turned quickly and the two sides came to an agreement.
Things are not always as they seem.
“If I’m speaking on my behalf, on my personal experience to it, at no point did it get to be the way it was portrayed in the media,” Stepan said.
And there remains a healthy dose of skepticism that the Rangers will ultimately deal away their heart-and-soul leader. This could merely be Glen Sather’s way of gauging what he could fetch in return for Callahan as a Plan B if he can’t re-sign him.
Whether the deadline is before Friday’s roster freeze -- Callahan will compete for Team USA in the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, which leaves him at risk for injury -- remains to be seen.
But Vigneault, optimistic that a deal can be reached, said he plans on having Callahan in the lineup Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche:
“I expect him to be.”