Five years later, this contract has reached the point of becoming a cap-breaking weight on the Lightning. Not only has Callahan’s play been aggressively mediocre over the last few seasons, but he is also tying up a large amount of cap space needed to sign the teams’ young stars.
With a cap-crunch coming in the 2019 offseason, first-year general manager Julien BriseBois will have to decide what to do with his veteran winger. Even if options are limited, there are ways for the Lightning to get creative in shedding Callahan’s albatross contract.
The Case for Trading Callahan
The best case scenario for the Lightning this offseason is for Callahan to be traded. With a contract paying him $4.7 million on a $5.8 million cap hit, there could be some value for a team needing to reach the cap-floor that doesn’t want to pay the full value. If the Lightning retained somewhere between $1 to $1.8 million, they may be able to move him without having to throw in any additional value.
If Tampa Bay decided that they won’t retain any salary on a trade, then they would likely need to add in some additional value to get a team to take on Callahan’s contract. What this would entail is difficult to gauge, as the Lightning would essentially be buying $5.6 million in cap space.
That is a lot of value to a cap-crunched franchise like the Lightning, but would that be worth a first-round pick? A third-round pick? A late-round pick and a prospect?
It’s difficult to know where BriseBois’ limit will be on a Callahan trade. No matter what, he will likely have to give up something of value to make it happen. Given their situation, though, it would make sense for the Lightning to give up some futures to clear space for the now.
The Case for Keeping Callahan
Even though it is all but certain that the Lightning will look to move on from Callahan this offseason, there is a scenario where he starts the 2019-20 season with Tampa Bay. If there is no one willing to work with BriseBois on a trade, then he simply might be forced to keep the veteran winger around.
Sure, he could buy out Callahan, but that would spread the pain of the last year of his contract out over a few seasons. That is never ideal, especially given the players Tampa Bay needs to re-sign next season.
This idea was best illustrated by GeoFitz4 of Rawcharge.com who said:
To me, it makes a lot more sense to attempt to trade Callahan and retain some of the salary to save more space. The team can retain up to half of his salary cap hit which would mean a $2.9 million cap hit and a similar savings in 2019-20 without adding the extended cap hit of buying him out.
If he were to be retained, Callahan would likely keep his role on the teams’ fourth line, while bringing some leadership to the locker room. When the Lightning signed him five-years ago, this would have been considered the worst-case scenario, but right now, that is just his role with the franchise.
Will the Lightning Trade Callahan?
In a perfect world, the Lightning will find a way to trade Callahan this offseason. His time with Tampa Bay has passed, with his scoring totals and overall play slowing each season. He looks like a bit of a relic, relegated to the Lightning’s fourth line, despite being paid like a top-six player.
If he does stick around with the Lightning, Callahan isn’t necessarily useless at least. When he is playing his best, he can be a somewhat effective, energy winger in a limited role.
This isn’t a great outlook, but it’s better than nothing if a trade isn’t possible. For the Lightning, though, they have to be hoping that the 2018-19 season was Callahan’s last in Tampa Bay.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.