The 2016-17 season was a pretty miserable one for Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Callahan.
One of the many forwards on the team to miss significant time due to injury, the veteran was limited to just 18 games due to a hip injury. He scored only two goals on the season and was only able to play about 14 minutes per night when he was in the lineup.
He is hoping that those issues are behind him, telling Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times that he feels great and has no limitations at all, and that as he heads to training camp “this is going to be the hungriest I’ve ever been.”
It is pretty important that the Lightning get something out of Callahan this season. Even before his injury shortened 2016-17 season his play had already started to decline (he managed just 28 points, his lowest point total in seven years, the year before) and he still carries a massive $5.8 million salary cap hit over the next three seasons. That is one of the contracts that has helped create a bit of a salary cap crunch in Tampa Bay that has made it difficult for the team to re-sign all of its restricted free agents. They already traded Jonathan Drouin this offseason and still have to re-sign Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and fill out the remainder of their roster.
The Lightning added to their roster on Saturday by signing one of Callahan’s former New York Rangers teammates, defenseman Dan Girardi, and former Pittsburgh Penguins forward Chris Kunitz in free agency. The two-year contract for Girardi seems like a bit of a gamble given how much his play has declined in recent years.
But as long as the Lightning are able to have some better injury luck this season — especially as it relates to Steven Stamkos — they should be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference and probably even a contender.