Rangers make Ryan Callahan their new captain, tab Marc Staal and Brad Richards as alternates

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As many expected, the New York Rangers decided to make heart-and-soul winger Ryan Callahan their new captain today. The 26-year-old forward will be joined by alternate captains Marc Staal and Brad Richards.

While the team has its fair share of hustle players in depth positions, Callahan embodies the kind of playing style that head coach John Tortorella loves to see at a high-level position. Callahan is the type of player who throws his body around with reckless abandon, which indicates that he’ll have the “lead by example” part of the job nailed down. Unfortunately, that selfless style has its downsides; Callahan’s willingness to block shots caused him to miss 22 regular season games and the team’s playoff series because of two separate injuries (a broken hand and ankle).

Even after missing all of those games, Callahan produced career highs in goals (23), assists (25) and points (48) last season. That allowed him to sign a lucrative contract extension as the Rangers avoided salary arbitration with the value forward.

Jesse Spector points out that Callahan is the team’s first homegrown captain since Brian Leetch played that role from 1997-2000. In the mean time, Mark Messier, Jaromir Jagr and Chris Drury donned the “C” in New York.

Rangers fans should be as delighted by this decision as they must have been when the team managed to retain Callahan and his partner in crime Brandon Dubinsky. Cally might have a tough time matching his breakout year in 2011-12, but even if he doesn’t light up the scoreboard at the same rate, he brings qualities to the ice that extend beyond the box scores.

That’s why he might be the best fit to wear the “C” at Madison Square Garden in quite some time.