LOS ANGELES — When the Los Angeles Kings won the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl as Western Conference champions, captain Dustin Brown accepted the trophy from NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. Three nights earlier, when the New York Rangers took home the Prince of Wales Trophy after winning the Eastern Conference, there was no captain to take the ceremonial photo with Daly, and that’s suited the team just fine.
On March 5, the Rangers dealt captain Ryan Callahan to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Martin St. Louis. It wasn’t an unexpected move with Callahan a pending unrestricted free agent and negotiations on an extension having reached a standstill.
For some teams, dealing the player who wears the ‘C’ over his heart could have an affect on a locker room, but not the Rangers; and general manager Glen Sather didn't have any second thoughts about any repercussions because he was confident he was only adding to a strength of his team.
“I knew that when we got Marty that he would be a strong leader in his own right,” Sather said during Stanley Cup Final Media Day on Tuesday. “It's difficult to trade anyone. Ryan was a good player. He was a great player for us for a long time. I think everyone knows the story that his contract was up and it was difficult to get anything done. So it was a good chance to get a good player like Marty.”
The trade has worked, with St. Louis producing 21 points in 39 games since joining the Rangers. And when his mother passed away before Game 5 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 2, the established bond in the room was furthered as the team came together in support of their new teammate.
In Callahan’s absence, the Rangers’ three alternates — Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and Brad Richards — have formed a strong enough leadership presence that losing Callahan wouldn’t cause the Rangers’ ship to get lost.
Richards, the veteran of the group, has since been labeled the team's de-facto captain.
“I think the amount of experience, the way [Richards] carries himself in our locker room has been big for us,” said Staal.
Sather has spent his entire career as Rangers GM taking chances. Some haven’t turned out like he may thought, but more recent ones, like the Callahan move, have so far paid off.
“We knew that leadership internally on the team was strong,” Sather said. “It was a bit of a chance, but it certainly worked out well.”
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