- Scott Burnside, NHL
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You've got to hand it to Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman.
Faced with a disgruntled captain in Martin St. Louis, who made it clear he was unhappy with his lot in life in Tampa, Yzerman turned lemons into lemonade by acquiring New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, a second-round draft pick this year and a first-round pick in 2015. Conditions on how far the Rangers advance in the playoffs and whether Callahan ends up staying in Tampa will alter (or add to) those picks. But it's still a pretty good haul for a GM who was essentially held up by a future Hall of Famer.
Now, it doesn't matter how you twist this one around, the Lightning gave up the most talented hockey player in the deal.
And St. Louis is under contract for one more year, with a cap hit of $5.625 million, while Callahan will become an unrestricted free agent in July and is rumored to be headed to Buffalo, which is near Callahan's hometown of Rochester, N.Y.
St. Louis, at age 38, remains a dynamic offensive force. He is the defending NHL scoring champ. That said, Callahan brings an element of snarl to a Lightning lineup that might prove useful come playoff time, especially if the Lightning end up playing a physical team such as the Boston Bruins, which is entirely possible.
Throw in the two picks (and it could become three pending the Rangers' playoff success this spring) and that's a pretty good return for a Lightning team that was essentially held over a barrel given that St. Louis was apparently only interested in moving to the Rangers.
Even if Yzerman had held onto St. Louis through the playoffs and then tried to move him before the draft, it's hard to imagine the Tampa GM getting a better return.
As for St. Louis, it is a bizarre and in some ways a disappointing end to a long and memorable run in Tampa.
The Lightning, of course, picked St. Louis up off the NHL scrap heap back in 2000-01. He became, along with Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards, the face of a franchise that evolved from laughingstock to Stanley Cup champion in a matter of years. He won two scoring titles, was a league MVP and in general made you feel good about the game with his dedication and his heart.
Whether it was simply the Olympic snub when Canada's initial roster was announced in January for the 2014 Olympic Games or hurt feelings dating back to 2010, when St. Louis also was overlooked by Yzerman for a Canadian Olympic team, or something else entirely, it was obvious the relationship had gone off the rails.
In some ways, the way it all played out in Tampa in the past few weeks was in direct contrast to the persona that St. Louis had developed there as the ultimate team guy.
To be clear, there has never been a suggestion that St. Louis let his hurt feelings seep into his play. He is a point-a-game guy with 29 goals and has played well in spite of the absence of his regular linemate Steve Stamkos who, ironically, is expected to rejoin the Tampa lineup Thursday after breaking his leg in November.
And really if this was anyone but St. Louis who had forced his GM's hand in such a fashion, we're guessing he'd have come in for a lot more pointed criticism.
Did St. Louis earn the right to try to dictate his own future? Guess so. Did Yzerman want to make this deal? Probably not. Did he maximize his return under a difficult set of circumstances? Absolutely.
Now we'll see if the change of scenery is really going to make life that much better for St. Louis.
Given the manner in which this unfolded here's hoping it was worth it to the former MVP.
5mPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald
13hKenneth Woolums, ESPN Stats & Info