TAMPA — The Olympic gold medal barely hung around the neck of Marty St. Louis before rumors started to swirl about his future status with the Tampa Bay Lightning leading up to the March 5 trade deadline.
At some point, while St. Louis sat on an airplane for the return trip from Sochi, Russia, after helping Canada capture the gold medal, information began to swirl that had the Lightning captain linked to a possible trade to the New York Rangers involving pending New York free-agent captain Ryan Callahan. First there were a series of tweets from the verified account of former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason, now a morning radio talk show host in New York, hinting at a surprising move involving Callahan being dealt straight up for St. Louis, with a possible conditional draft pick included in any potential deal.
That was followed by Nick Kypreos, a former NHL player now working for Sportsnet in Canada, sending out a tweet indicating it was believed St. Louis requested a trade out of Tampa Bay after he was left off the initial 25-man Canadian roster — put together by Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman — when it was announced on Jan. 7.
Esiason went on his talk show on Monday morning, indicating he heard about the potential St. Louis-for-Callahan swap four weeks ago as the Rangers were targeting St. Louis in a trade, though the New York Post reported the Rangers inquired about St. Louis but Yzerman was unwilling to part with his team’s leading scorer for a rental player.
St. Louis was eventually named as a replacement on the Canada roster when Steven Stamkos had to pull out after he was not medically cleared to play while recovering from a broken right leg suffered on Nov. 11 in Boston, and went on to win a gold medal.
St. Louis arrived back in Tampa on Monday but did not practice with the team. Tampa Bay did not take to the ice on Tuesday and St. Louis is not required to be at practice Wednesday when the Lightning take to the ice in Brandon before departing for Nashville to open a four-game road trip on Thursday.
“They are rumors, but I don’t really know where that stuff comes from,’’ Stamkos said. “Obviously people can speculate about what goes on with him not being on the Olympic team, but I think the gold medal will heal a lot of things. I think that’s where people are jumping on that bandwagon, and New York is being thrown around because they have some guys they need to re-sign or get rid of, so people will say that Marty lives in New York (actually Greenwich, Conn.) and that’s why they make the connection. But I don’t think any of it’s true.’’
More rumors will no doubt pop up between now and the passing of the trade deadline at 3 p.m. on March 5, but Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he doesn’t worry about how they will affect the players in the locker room.
“I was more worried about him not making the Olympic team than I am him hearing rumors about Marty being moved,’’ Cooper said. “I think it is a natural for the next 10 days for these rumors to start, and I’m surprised we haven’t heard more of them. The fact that they are really isolated on players is interesting to me, but aside from that, I coach the team. I don’t brush up the rumors or am I the one pulling the trigger on the trades, my pay grade is not high enough to have to deal with that.
“I’ll start worrying if I hear my name come up in trade rumors.’’