New York Rangers: Looking back and re-writing the 2014 season

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 06: Martin St. Louis
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 06: Martin St. Louis /

Before the Spring of ’14, the New York Rangers made two critical decisions that drastically changed the season. Martin St. Louis for Ryan Callahan plus assets, and extending Dan Girardi. So it begs the question of how different things would be if the story went a little differently.

It was just a normal February when Boomer Esiason decided to drop a bombshell that Martin St. Louis wanted out of Tampa Bay and would only go to play for the New York Rangers.

After what seemed like an eternity for Rangers fans, constantly checking Twitter and Facebook to see if the deal was done, St. Louis was finally a Ranger come Deadline Day. Which meant Ryan Callahan was on the way out.

An Expensive Decision

The Rangers had two long time members of the team up for contract renewal in Callahan and Girardi, and in a cap crunch it was seemingly one or the other. Both with long term contract demands with high salary. Ultimately, as we all know, they chose Girardi. Glen Sather took his chances on St. Louis and the rest is history. But what if Steve Yzerman didn’t budge? What if the Rangers gave in to Callahan’s requests? The ending would most likely be both very different, yet somewhat familiar.

The Rangers were still poised to be competitive even without St. Louis. A team that was still good enough to beat Philadelphia regardless, and maybe even Pittsburgh (we’ll disregard Mother’s Day). But I’m not bold enough to say Montreal is beat. Two key goals from Martin propelled the Rangers, and I’m not confident enough to say Callahan would have the same impact.

This then leaves the Rangers without a conference championship, and with a bloated contract. Ryan Callahan has gone on the decline in Tampa Bay, and there are decisions to be made soon regarding his contract. Similar to the situation the Rangers faced with Dan Girardi this summer, it more than likely ends with a buyout, and it’s not unreasonable to guess that things would have turned sour in New York with Callahan like the situation with Girardi.

Related Story: New York Rangers: Five players looking to progress this season

A Defense That Could Have Been

The Rangers kept Dan Girardi, giving him his six year, $33 million contract, despite teams having interest around the 2014 trade deadline. One team rumored were the Anaheim Ducks, who were more than willing to offer defenseman Sami Vatanen, and other assets. It’s understandable as to why the Rangers felt Girardi was crucial to hold on to. Unfortunately, it became clear soon after that Girardi’s time as a top pairing defender were done.

Sami Vatanen replacing Dan Girardi in 2014 probably doesn’t make or break the defense, despite what others may think. Alain Vigneault using Vatanen in big minutes in the playoffs as a rookie seems unlikely. That Rangers team still goes far, but still hard to say if they could beat that mighty Kings team.

However, the Rangers in the long run would have had a defensive corps that would rival Nashville. Even without Kevin Shattenkirk. Perhaps they keep Anton Stralman as insurance for a young Vatanen. What may have seemed right at the time has surely left its long term mark on the franchise.

Next: Recent hirings highlight puzzling front office pattern

When deciding on what was best for the 2014 team when faced with either moving Girardi or Callahan, acquiring St. Louis was for the better in the short term. Long term, the Rangers may have some regrets. The good news is the Rangers have survived complete disaster since and are ready to contend again. Let’s just hope there aren’t any contract dilemmas in the meantime.