NEW YORK -- New York Rangers general manager Glen Sather and coach Alain Vigneault each believe their team is better now than when Wednesday started.
In their first comments regarding the NHL Trade Deadline transaction that sent forward Ryan Callahan and draft picks to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for wing Martin St. Louis, Sather and Vigneault were excited about the deal exchanging captains.
"We're adding a player that's got great presence. He's won a Cup. He's just come back and won a gold medal for Canada. So we're bringing in a real solid player and a real solid individual," Vigneault said before the Rangers' game Wednesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. "We're losing [Callahan's] grit and fire on the ice, but we're adding some other very important parts to our team. I really believe this makes us a better team."
An impending unrestricted free agent, Callahan was engaged in negotiations with the Rangers on a new contract. But when player and team could not find middle ground on the terms of that deal, Sather felt it was time to trade one of his most popular players. The years and money involved caused negotiations to break down, but Sather said Callahan's insistence on a no-trade clause was what really forced his hand.
"The no-trade is the one thing that really bothered me in the end. If you look at what's going on today with some of the other players being talked about, you give too much away when you give that no-trade contract out. It really ties your hands," Sather said. "I had another deal. This wasn't the only deal. This one turned out to be the better deal for us right now. The other would have been more in the future. Either way, Ryan would have gone in this trade."
Vigneault and Sather each lauded Callahan's professionalism and thanked him for his contribution to the Rangers over the past eight years.
In a gesture that showed his appreciation for the outgoing veteran's play, Vigneault revealed the captain's "C" will not be worn by any Rangers player for the remainder of the season.
"I think first of all we should thank Ryan for everything he's done for the New York Rangers. I only had him a short time, the fans of the New York Rangers know him real well. He was a solid person a great player and a real solid captain for us," Vigneault said. "This is part of the business. I'm very happy and excited to have Marty St. Louis with us. Another Frenchman, I like that part."
Naturally, it was more than just St. Louis' Quebecois background that had Vigneault excited. The defending Art Ross winner, St. Louis has 973 points in 1,041 NHL games and is a six-time All-Star and three-time winner of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the player who best displays gentlemanly conduct.
The 38-year-old has one year remaining on his contract and will play on a line with Carl Hagelin and Brad Richards, the latter of whom won the Stanley Cup alongside St. Louis with the Lightning in 2004. The hope is that experience may bring the Rangers closer to that ultimate goal this season.
"I think the guy that's coming in helps us advance a little further than we expected to this year," Sather said. "It’s not often you get a chance to acquire a guy like Marty St. Louis."