Monday, January 21, 2019

Ryan Callahan Jersey Card

Fresh from pulling it in a recent Upper Deck 2018-19 Mystery Box, I figured I could talk a bit about Ryan Callahan via card #AF-RC from Upper Deck's 2013-14 SP Game-Used Edition collection and Authentic Fabrics sub-set:
It shows him wearing the New York Rangers' white (now-away) uniform and, although the scan doesn't do it justice, features two lines of stitching - one below the "n" and one below the "c" of the word "Authentic". If you look closely at the picture, you'll also see he was the team's captain at the time (2011-14), between the reigns of Chris Drury and current Tampa Bay Lightning teammate Ryan McDonagh.

An American from Rochester, NY, it felt like a perfect fit when the Rangers selected him 127th overall in the fourth round of the 2004 NHL draft, one of the best "value" picks of the later rounds (3-9) with Brandon Prust (70th overall, 486 games played, 1036 penalty minutes), Andrej Sekera (71st, 683 games, 232 points), Alexei Emelin (84th, 456 games, 81 points and lots of hard-hitting checks), Alexander Edler (91st, closing in on 800 games and over 350 points from the blue line), Johan Franzen (602 games, 370 points, a Stanley Cup and World Championship gold), Kris Versteeg (134th, 643 games, 358 points), Mikhail Grabovski (150th, 534 games, 296 points), Roman Polak (734 games and counting, 132 points and 599 penalty minutes so far), Anton Khudobin (206th, career GAA of 2.47, save percentage of .916 and currently a league leader in both categories), Troy Brouwer (214th, 351 points and 569 penalty minutes), Matt Hunwick (224th, 523 games), Pekka Rinne (258th, a Vezina Trophy and a Cup Final in consecutive years), Mark Streit (786 games, 434 points, captain of two teams and two-time Swiss Olympian and captain), Daniel Winnik (265th, 798 games) and Jannik Hansen (287th, 626 games).

As a matter of fact, if I had to re-do the 2004 draft, my first round would likely go as follows (half-knowing what I know now, following the development curb these players had, but notwithstanding injury occurrences, and accounting for the fact that I would normally advise against drafting a goalie in the first round, despite there being three here):

1. Alexander Ovechkin
2. Evgeni Malkin
3. Blake Wheeler
4. Rinne
5. Streit
6. Alexander Radulov
7. Franzen
8. Andrew Ladd
9. David Krejci
10. Mike Green
11. Edler
12. Callahan
13. Brandon Dubinsky
14. Alex Goligoski
15. Ladislav Smid
16. Emelin
17. Travis Zajac
18. Brouwer
19. Grabovski
20. Wojtek Wolski
21. Versteeg
22. Sekera
23. Drew Stafford
24. Devan Dubnyk
25. Andrej Meszaros
26. Bryan Bickell
27. Blake Comeau
28. David Booth
29. Carl Soderberg
30. Cory Schneider

Callahan had a few injury-laden first few seasons, but broke out in 2007-08 with 22 goals, good for third on the Rangers, then was named alternate captain the following year, posting roughly the same amount of goals and points as the previous season.

He missed some 20 games by breaking his hand to block a shot in 2010-11, which didn't stop him from posting career-high offensive totals for goals (23), assists (25) and points (48). He also suffered a broken ankle from blocking a Zdeno Chara shot - who held the record for hardest/fastest shot at the time - at the end of the season, earning the team's captaincy with his compete level and effort. He was the first Rangers captain to have been born in the State.

He followed that with 29 goals, 25 assist and 54 points in 2011-12, also suiting up for 20 playoff games (posting 10 points) en route to the Conference Final.

Contract talks stalled with New York, however, as the team wanted to add more offensive firepower to an already well-oiled machine, offering Callahan $36M for six years (at a $6M per season cap hit), while Callahan's camp remained first at $6.5M; at the 2013-14 trade deadline, the Rangers sent their captain, the first-round pick who became Josh Ho-Sang, the first-round pick who became Anthony Beauvillier and the seventh-round pick who became Ziyat Paigin to the Lightning for the remaining two seasons of disgruntled captain and superstar Martin St. Louis' deal and a second-rounder (Oliver Kylington).

It was such a blockbuster deal that both teams benefited from it immediately, facing off in the Conference Final, with Tampa winning in seven games.

He has been plagued by injuries ever since, however, as he was limited to 18 games in 2016-17, 67 in 2017-18 and 40 so far in 2018-19 with just 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists), ranking 16th on the team, behind four defensemen and Adam Erne, a rookie who has only suited up in 34 games. His ice time has mostly been below 10 minutes per game this year.

Many feel he will be ripe for a buyout this summer (provided he's not injured during the team's window to do so), but some Rangers commentators would like to see him come back home - at a fair price.

Either way would be fine for the romantic in me - finishing his career as the Rangers' two-time captain, or playing on Cup-contending teams with fellow former Rangers McDonagh, Anton Stralman, J.T. Miller and Daniel Girardi. Plus, as the Los Angeles Kings showed us with Mike Richards, having an experienced, dependable checker who can fill in in other roles temporarily is a plus come playoff time.

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