Following the 2014 Winter Olympics, the situation in Tampa Bay looked good. The Lightning had a 33-20-5 record despite the fact that they’d spent most of the season without Steve Stamkos.
During Stamkos’ absence, Ben Bishop had shown himself to be a the strong starting goaltender that the Lightning lacked in their previous two campaigns. Victor Hedman was finally playing like the elite defenseman they were hoping for when he was drafted in 2009, and Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson had emerged as two of the league’s best rookies. Then, of course, there was Martin St. Louis, who continued to shine. Put him back on a line with Stamkos and sparks would surely fly.
Only that never happened.
Reports began to surface that St. Louis was so upset that Lightning and Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman had initially snubbed him from the Canadian Olympic roster — again — that he no longer wished to play under Yzerman. Though never confirmed, the reports seemed accurate and, a day before Stamkos was set to return, St. Louis and what became a second round pick were dealt to the New York Rangers in exchange for Ryan Callahan, what became two first round picks, and a seventh round selection.
It was, to put it mildly, a blockbuster.
The Lightning, a team looking to make a serious playoff run, dealt away the reigning Art Ross Trophy holder in a swap of team captains. In the long run the trade might prove to be beneficial for Tampa Bay due to the picks — and the team looking strong this season — but there is no question it wasn’t the path the Lightning wanted to take.
Owner Jeff Vinik tried twice to talk St. Louis down from his request, and Yzerman made no secret about the fact the deal was about honoring St. Louis’ wishes.
Having Callahan available to go the other way was due to a perfect storm of sorts. Like Tampa Bay, the Rangers likely wouldn’t have traded Callahan under normal circumstances, but they weren’t willing to meet his contract demands and were consequently in danger of watching him walk as an unrestricted free agent. The Rangers reportedly capped their offer at six-years, $36 million without a no-trade clause.
In the end, the Lightning were able to re-sign Callahan to a six-year, $34.8 million deal that included a no-movement clause.
St. Louis played in 972 games with Tampa Bay and is the team’s all-time leader in points (953). After he left, he apologized to the fans. His accomplishments with the Lightning should be fondly remembered, but the dramatic and shocking manner in which he left may be hard to separate from that.