Martin St. Louis was a minus-1 in his first game as a Ranger. Credit: Getty Images
A few minutes after the most significant deal of the NHL trade deadline former Devils star David Clarkson was asked how the Rangers would be different after trading Ryan Callahan to the Lightning for Martin St. Louis.
"I always thought [Callahan] was a hard-working guy," said Clarkson, an ex-Devil now in Toronto, hours before the Rangers dropped 3-2 overtime loss to his Maple Leafs at the Garden Tuesday night.
Tyler Bozak lifted Phil Kessel's centering feed over Henrik Lundqvist (26 saves) 1:51 into overtime for the game-winner. The goal was his second of the game, as he opened the scoring with a penalty shot goal 1:44 into the second. Nazem Kadri's rebound goal two minutes into the third pushed the Toronto advantage to 2-0.
But Ryan McDonagh and Dominic Moore scored short-handed goals 1:01 apart on the same penalty kill to tie the game at 2-2.
"I thought tonight was a gutsy comeback," St. Louis said. Despite earning a point, the Rangers (33-26-4) have lost three in a row. "Unfortunately we didn't get the extra point."
Without Callahan, the Rangers did not have a captain on the roster for the first time since a 4-2 loss to the Devils in Game 4 of the 2006 Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Marc Staal and Brad Richards wore the "A" last night signifying the alternate captain.
Callahan had been the captain of the Rangers since Sept. 12, 2011 — the 26th in the franchise's history.
"There's a reason the Rangers thought of him, to give him that 'C,'" Clarkson said of Callahan. "He's a guy who worked hard. Playing against him for quite awhile, he was a leader in that room [and] played really hard. I'm a fan of the way he plays. He plays the game hard and did a lot of good things."
Callahan was the personification of the organization's blueprint to rebuild from the inside out with home-grown talent, routinely throwing his 5-foot-11, 185-pound frame around with reckless abandon in the 450 games he played as a Ranger.
But intangibles are challenging to quantify, and in a salary cap world they do not have the same financial value as statistics. So Callahan was deemed expendable, with general manager Glen Sather publicly criticizing Callahan's contract requests during a press conference two hours before the game.
"At some point [in negotiating a] contract you get to an end point where you can't go any farther and we were there," Sather said. "The no-trade was the one thing that really bothered me in the end."
But for however troubled Sather was by the demand, he was satiated by the addition of St. Louis, who is still among the league's elite scorers even at the age of 38.
"He helps us advance a little farther than expected," Sather said of St. Louis, who was placed on a line with Carl Hagelin and Richards, his former teammate in Tampa Bay. Nearly six full seasons have passed since St. Louis and Richards were teammates but the chemistry between the two was plainly evident on their first shifts together as Rangers.
"It's definitely comfortable," Richards said of playing with St. Louis. Richards was minus-2 with eight attempted shots in 19:00 of ice time, while St. Louis attempted six shots in 20:11 and was minus-1. "It's been awhile but we still have an idea what we're doing out there."
Richards summed up the organizational outlook following a whirlwind day in 13 words.
"If we couldn't sign [Callahan], getting Marty is a pretty good consolation prize."
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter@DenisGorman.