Here’s my story from lohud.com:
By Rick Carpiniello
Martin St. Louis said that he was hoping for the best but expecting the worst in his return to Tampa as a Ranger Wednesday night.
The emotion was multi-fold that of, for example, Ryan Callahan’s return to the Garden as an ex-Ranger just nine days earlier. On that night, Callahan was booed to a degree, loudly cheered when he was welcomed back with a brief tribute – along with ex-Rangers Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman – during a TV timeout, and largely ignored as he scored twice in a hideous 5-1 Rangers loss.
And because St. Louis certainly forced his way out of town, and to New York in particular, due largely to a rift with GM Steve Yzerman who snubbed the winger as a selection for Team Canada in the Sochi Olympics (St. Louis eventually made the team as an alternate), and in part due to a desire to play near his permanent home in Greenwich, Conn.
Callahan was overplaying his hand in contract negotiations with Rangers GM Glen Sather, St. Louis wanted to go to New York. Captains were swapped in a deal in which the Rangers had to toss in two first-round picks for a (now) 39-year-old.
Yeesh, you might say. And, yeesh, Rangers fans so rightfully thought, after years of seeing stars on the downside come to New York and falter.
Dig a little deeper, though, and this is a deal that was good for everybody. The Rangers couldn’t sign Callahan for the dollars or term he wanted. A career second-liner, his new coach, Alain Vigneault, saw more as a third, and now he’s playing first-line minutes in Tampa.
The fact is, the Rangers got the best player moved at last March’s trade deadline.
St. Louis, who was afraid to upset the chemistry of a team that had figured it out down the stretch, struggled terribly the remainder of the regular season, then was a critical piece to the run to the Stanley Cup Final, inspiring with his play, and more with his spirit after the death of his mom at a point in which the Rangers trailed Pittsburgh 3-1 in games.
Now he’s adored by teammates, inspiring them with leadership – and privately you hear he is much more of a presence than was Callahan – and with his play.
“He’s such a competitor,” linemate Derek Stepan said. “He loves the game, has such a passion for the game. He’s one of the best teammates you can ask for
“It’s incredible that he continues to want to learn more about the game. With (as much) as he’s played and how much he knows, it’s really cool to see.”
You may have seen the back-handed pass St. Louis made through a defenseman’s legs for Stepan’s goal Sunday against Montreal. Or the steal the the roof shot on which St. Louis scored later in that game, putting him at 998 career points heading to his former home.
St. Louis has begun talks on an extension beyond this season – he will play into his 40s – and has begun to show that he likely is the most gifted offensive player the Rangers have had since Jaromir Jagr.
He might need another long playoff run to justify the first-rounders the Rangers gave up.
But make no mistake, for right now, the Rangers are better after that trade than they were before it.
Photos by Getty Images.