TAMPA — The Lightning know what they are losing in trading captain Marty St. Louis — the heart and soul of the team for more than a decade.
They also know what they are gaining in exchange in Rangers captain Ryan Callahan — a heart-and-soul player with an entirely different style of play.
Callahan, a two-time member of the U.S. Olympic hockey team, is expected to make his Lightning debut tonight against Buffalo.
“He fills a need for us in that he’s not replacing Marty St. Louis, but he plays in all situations,” general manager Steve Yzerman said. “He kills penalties, he’s a great shot blocker, probably most well known for penalty killing, his defensive ability, shot-blocking ability. He’s very good in front of the net on the power play. He’s an all-around solid player who really competes.”
Callahan, a fourth-round pick in the 2004 draft, spent seven-plus seasons with New York. In 450 career games, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound winger has 132 goals and 254 points.
In the final year of his contract, Callahan was seeking a reported six-year deal from the Rangers. After getting over the shock of leaving the only organization he has known, Callahan is ready to start something new.
“The first initial emotion is the surprise I got traded there,’’ Callahan said. “After that goes away, I think of the excitement, knowing I’m going to Tampa, which is a great organization and is in the playoff picture right now.’’
While Callahan is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, Yzerman is not looking at him solely as a rental player.
“Our intention is to get him re-signed,’’ said Yzerman, who has already reached out to Callahan’s camp.
Head coach Jon Cooper is excited to insert Callahan, who led Rangers forwards with 132 hits and was second with 47 blocked shots despite missing 17 games with a broken thumb.
“I think Ryan Callahan is something this team needs,’’ Cooper said. “There’s one area that we needed to get better in and that was ... playing with a little bit of snarl. And Ryan Callahan is going to bring us that.’’
The Lightning also made a minor-league swap on Wednesday, sending forward Dana Tyrell and defenseman Matt Taormina to Columbus in exchange for forwards Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and Dalton Smith, both of whom will report to Syracuse of the American Hockey League.