Pending UFA and Rangers captain Ryan Callahan has asked for at least seven years and $42 million on his next contract. In unrelated news, the Rangers are looking to trade Callahan to a team that likes him enough to meet those salary demands. According to Larry Brooks, the Rangers want "a player who could step in immediately plus a legitimate prospect." Rumor has it the Kings may be interested. Should they be?
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If you've ever watched Dustin Brown play, and if you're reading this blog you probably have, you understand Ryan Callahan. The two have a lot in common, and not just diving and terrible Sochi performances. Both American captains play wing, shoot right, and hit a lot. Brown has averaged .58 points per game over his career, Callahan .57. (You'll notice that Callahan being similar to, but nevertheless slightly worse than Dustin Brown is a theme of this article.)
Callahan's gritty reputation comes from his incredible ability to rack up real-time stats. He's leading Rangers forwards in both hits and blocked shots for the third year in a row. But I'd make two cautions here. First, the Kings already have plenty of forwards who hit (they don't need to block a lot of shots because they usually have the puck). Second, Callahan's particularly rugged style of play is not a virtue in and of itself. Callahan's purpose is obviously to score and prevent goals and chances, so hits and blocks are only important to the extent that they contribute to that. Let's take a look at the possession numbers and see how effective his style is.
For five straight years, Callahan has posted Corsi relatives close to zero (-.9% this year), meaning his Corsi results are consistently average on his team. Callahan's defensive reputation would suggest that he plays the toughest minutes on the Rangers, but this is not the case; while he has faced above-average competition, he has received the third highest percentage of offensive zone starts among Rangers forwards this year.
Since Callahan has been playing only moderately difficult minutes for a decent possession team, his possession numbers imply that he is neither a play-driving asset nor a Regehr-esque boat anchor. Given that Callahan most frequently plays with two talented linemates, Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin, his average Corsi numbers are not particularly impressive.
Of course, Kings fans will forgive Callahan for not driving play if he can fix the team's scoring problems. In this area Callahan is more useful. He generates shots at a similar rate to Dustin Brown but scores a touch less because of a lower career 5v5 shooting percentage. Callahan is not much of a playmaker and will usually be the primary shooting option on his line.
Surprisingly, Callahan has been dynamic on the power play, shooting an impressive 24% over 167 shots for his career. He may have some talent for getting to the net, but this extraordinary shooting percentage is likely a fluke (shooting percentage is notoriously variable over small samples). The Rangers evidently agree with that assessment, as they have used him only sparingly on the PP this season. Callahan does draw many more penalties than he takes, which would be helpful to a Kings team that has done the opposite of that this season.
All in all, Callahan scores at a fine rate for a second-line player, but probably isn't a better offensive option than any of the players currently in LA's top six.
The Fit with LA
Jeff Carter is a better scorer and Justin Williams a better possession player, so there's no room for Callahan to play right wing in LA's top six. Unless Callahan changes positions, he would probably play alongside Dwight King and Jarret Stoll on the third line. Once there, he'd instantly become LA's best depth player and add scoring to a pitiful offensive unit.
But considering the high cost, acquiring Callahan doesn't make sense. He doesn't drive play and there are plenty of more dynamic scoring options on the market. The Kings would likely be better off spending less to acquire Ales Hemsky or Sam Gagner, either of whom could make a greater offensive impact.
Callahan's contract demands make a trade even less appetizing. Six years at a high cap hit is too much for a player of his caliber, especially since the Sharks only had to pony up five years and $30 million to sign more talented players like Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski.
A slightly worse version of Dustin Brown isn't worth $6 million a year now, let alone for the next seven years as Callahan declines into his thirties. The Kings should look elsewhere.