The 2014 Rangers-Lightning Blockbuster That Reshaped Both Franchises

Heading into the 2014 NHL Trade Deadline, both the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers found themselves in a great position. For the Lightning, they were near the top of the Atlantic Division despite a gruesome early-season injury to superstar Steven Stamkos, whereas the Rangers were considered to be one of the teams to beat in the Eastern Conference with their core of elite talent up and down the ice. At the very least, both teams were expected to be buyers at the deadline, as they would be adding depth for a postseason push.

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Despite this positive exterior, they found themselves in a tough position when it came to their captains. While there was a myriad of issues causing this turmoil, the long and short of it was that, despite being in the playoff hunt, the Lightning and Rangers had a disgruntled franchise face that held a lot of value to the team that they didn’t want to lose for nothing.

Aleksander Barkov, Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis
While he is a legend for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Martin St. Louis’ departure from the franchise at the 2014 NHL trade deadline was abrupt and unwelcomed by the fanbase. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

This led them to pull off one of the oddest deadline trades in NHL history. In this deal, the Lightning sent their captain Martin St. Louis to the Rangers for their captain Ryan Callahan, along with a conditional 2014 second-round pick and a 2015 first-rounder. There was also another conditional pick in this deal, where Tampa Bay would send New York an additional 2015 second-rounder and receive a seventh back should they re-sign Callahan to a long-term contract.

While the impact from this trade was immediately felt around the hockey world, it was a multi-faceted deal that influenced the future of both teams for years to come. So, let’s take a look back on this trade and see how it helped to shape the recent history of both the Lightning and Rangers

The Immediate Impact of the 2014 Blockbuster

Following this monumental deal, both the Rangers and Lightning continued winning and secured their spot in the 2014 Playoffs as the second seed in their respective divisions. Despite having more points, Tampa Bay was the first team to bow out of the postseason, as the upstart squad was swept by the Montreal Canadiens in Round 1.

While he didn’t post a point in their four playoff games, Callahan still endeared himself to his new team, with many believing he should be locked down to a long-term deal due to his play on the ice and proven leadership off it. This eventually led to a six-year, $34.8 million extension to keep him with Tampa Bay, a contract the team would look back on with regret years later.

Related: Lightning Get a Wake-Up Call in Game 1 Loss to the Rangers

In New York, things got off to a much better start as they claimed a Round 1 victory over the Philidelphia Flyers in seven games. They followed this up by falling behind to the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 before rallying around St. Louis as an emotional centerpiece after the passing of his mother during the series, where they completed the comeback victory. Next, they took down the Canadiens in six games in the Eastern Conference Final before falling to the L.A. Kings just three games short of claiming the 2014 Stanley Cup.

While they didn’t win it all in 2014, this run to the Cup Final was an emotional rollercoaster that helped to re-energize the Rangers and appeared to be the sign that their championship window was wide open. St. Louis played a huge role in that success, as his eight goals led the team, and his 15 points sat second to only Ryan McDonagh.

Lightning and Rangers Meet in 2015 Eastern Conference Final

In the following 2014-15 season, the Lightning and Rangers continued to roll. Both teams found themselves securely in a playoff spot, with St. Louis and Callahan putting together similar 20-plus goal, 50-plus point campaigns. They would fight their way to the Eastern Conference Final, where the former Captains faced off against their once-beloved franchises.

This series was a high-scoring battle of back-and-forth games, eventually culminating in a 2-0 Game 7 shutout by the Lightning to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. Even though they would fall to the Chicago Blackhawks, this was a coming-out party for a team that would go on to dominate the NHL for years to come. However, despite their success, Callahan never lived up to the contract he signed and was often seen as a cap liability even if he brought incredible intangibles with him. He wouldn’t be able to play out the contract in full, either, as injuries ended his playing career in 2019.

Ryan Callahan #24, Tampa Bay Lightning
While Ryan Callahan brought a lot of intangibles to the ice for the Tampa Bay Lightning, his play started lagging behind his cap hit as injuries slowed his game. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

For Rangers, the 2015 loss represented a final peak for an incredibly talented group. New York continued to reach the playoffs in the following seasons, before blowing up their core with blockbuster trades to rebuild for the future. Those moves, along with a bit of luck in the NHL Draft Lottery, built a new roster capable of winning it all once again, as we have seen them reach the 2022 Eastern Conference Final on the back of some special performances.

Finally, following the conclusion of the 2015 playoffs, St. Louis announced his retirement from playing in the NHL. He would go down in history as a hockey hall of fame inductee, had his number retired by Tampa Bay, and even became the head coach of the Canadiens in 2022.

Draft Picks Left Something to be desired for Lightning and Rangers

When you look back at the draft picks exchanged in this deal, it’s easy to believe that the Lightning immediately won the trade. They got two first-round picks for a player who retired one season after the trade, and then general manager Steve Yzerman turned those picks into three-second rounders and a third after a handful of draft-day deals.

Despite having a lot of quality chances, however, the Lightning only got one hit from these selections. That pick was a huge win for the franchise, as they chose Anthony Cirelli 72nd overall at the 2015 draft. Since joining Tampa Bay, Cirelli has developed into a dominant top-six centerman who should be in the running for the Selke in the coming years.

Also, the additional seventh-round pick the Lightning received when Callahan re-signed with the team had an interesting use by Yzerman. This was traded back to New York in the 2015 offseason for Daniel Walcott, a player who has been a face of the Lightning’s AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, since his acquisition.

Anthony Cirelli Tampa Bay Lightning
As the best selection made with draft picks from this trade, Anthony Cirelli has developed into a fantastic two-way forward with the Lightning. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

For the Rangers, the 2015 second-round pick they received after Tampa Bay signed Callahan wasn’t kept around for long. The franchise flipped that pick along with a bevy of other future assets to land Keith Yandle at the 2015 trade deadline, a move that provided them more depth for the postseason but did not lead them to their ultimate goal.

2014 Blockbuster Trade Was a Victory for Both Franchises

Looking back, the long-term impact of this 2014 captain for captain trade was monumental for both the Lightning and Rangers. In many ways, it marked a convergence of the franchises, as one team took a huge swing to potentially put them over the top, while the other brought back needed assets to continue tweaking their roster while giving them the ammunition to make big trades of their own.

Related: Lightning’s Kucherov On-Pace to Be Top-5 All-Time Playoff Performer

At the very least, this trade was truly one of a kind. There will likely never be another deadline deal like it again, as the odds of two contending teams swapping their captains just weeks before the playoffs is just an absurd prospect. So, as the Lightning and Rangers face off in the 2022 Eastern Conference Final, it’s a fun piece of history that should be remembered by both fandoms as a positive moment overall.