Here’s my column on the revival of Martin St. Louis in this series:
By Rick Carpiniello
NEW YORK – You heard it, the Rangers heard it. Martin St. Louis surely heard it.
Things like “Martin St. Dionne.” And “Martin St. Robitaille.” All the, “Here we go again” stuff from fans who have seen, oh, six or eight or more aging former superstars come to the Rangers and fizzle, if not retire.
He became a Ranger at the trade deadline, in a deal that was both expensive and polarizing. The Rangers sent to Tampa Bay their captain, Ryan Callahan, who terribly overplayed his contract demands, plus a first-round draft pick and a conditional second-rounder that could become a first if the Rangers reach the Eastern Conference final.
For a 39-year-old. Despite his gray playoff beard, nobody thought St. Louis was toast. But nobody thought that of Marcel Dionne, Luc Robitaille, Bobby Carpenter, heck, Ken Hodge, until they became Rangers.
Then St. Louis scored one goal in 19 games as a Ranger. One. This from a guy who won his second NHL scoring title just last season, and had 29 goals and 61 points in 62 games for Tampa this season.
When I asked him before the playoffs if he felt like it was a fresh start, he sounded irritated. He said he felt fine at the end of the season.
But you know what? This has indeed been a fresh start for St. Louis, who has been every bit a superstar (two goals plus a wrongly disallowed goal in Game 5, and a team-high six points) in the first-rounder against Philadelphia, which goes to Game 6 Tuesday with the Rangers up 3-2.
“I could sit here and sound like a genius and tell you I knew this was going to happen, but I never really thought it wouldn’t happen,” his close friend and Tampa Cup-winning teammate Brad Richards said.
“When you hear some of the stuff around, like, ‘Can he do this, or is he’ … I don’t even know what was being said. But if you know him long enough, even if you don’t know him, if you just watched hockey the last five years, you knew that it’s going to happen.
“If you ask him, he probably feels like a totally different person than he did three weeks ago.”
The trade can’t be a bad one if St. Louis produces. St. Louis was the best player available at the deadline, and the Rangers got him. His contract is reasonable (one more year at $5.625M). While the Rangers surely could use more players with Callahan’s attributes, especially in the playoffs, six years and more than $6 million per was too much. Besides, St. Louis is a battler, too. And if the second-rounder becomes a first? Well, what team wouldn’t give up a first-round pick for a chance to reach the Cup final?
St. Louis will have almost certainly be responsible for that happening, if it does.
“It’s contagious,” Richards said. “He brings people along. That’s not just what he brings on the ice as far as making plays. That’s what he brings as a player and a person. There’s a reason why he wins a scoring race when he’s 38 years old – because he works and he plays the right way.
“We’re in a playoff (together) again, and it’s hard to believe it was 2007 or 2008 the last time we were in the playoffs together. It feels normal. It’s fun to be back and talking hockey and talking playoffs and trying to figure how to win.”
Photo by Getty Images.