TAMPA, Fla. - It will be an interesting time for three longtime Rangers Monday night when the Lightning visits Madison Square Garden.
If it were just Brian Boyle, or Anton Stralman, or Ryan Callahan playing in his first game at the Garden as a former Ranger, that would be enough. But all three will be there for the Lightning, and it will make for a different sort of welcome home.
"We haven't talked too much about it, but I think there's a mutual understanding that if there's one game the three of us want to win, it's this one," Stralman said. "It's going to be exciting going in there."
Stralman and Boyle may approach this return from a more "normal" vantage point, if you will. Both came of age with the Rangers, Boyle as a plugger and clutch playoff scorer and Stralman as a forgotten defenseman who flourished last season. Both contributed to the Rangers' run to the Stanley Cup Final as well as the run to the conference final two seasons earlier.
But both Stralman and Boyle were simply too expensive for the Rangers in free agency. Stralman signed a five-year, $20.5-million deal and Boyle signed for three years and $9.4 million.
Callahan, however, never got to experience the Rangers' joy and ultimate heartbreak last June. He was traded on deadline day (March 5) to the Lightning for Martin St. Louis, an exchange of captains that shocked the NHL world.
Callahan's contract demands -- six years, $39 million, plus a full no-move clause -- proved to be the reason the Rangers sent "Captain Cally" away after seven-plus seasons.
St. Louis came in and, with his emotional lift during the playoffs, made Rangers fans forget their one-time favorite.
"I'm looking at it as another game. Obviously, it's a little more than that, but I'm going to try and get the two points and get out of there," said Callahan, who signed for six years and $34.8 million the week before free agency began. "I don't know [if I'll be cheered]. It's a fickle place there in MSG -- that's what it's all about there. It's a great crowd, great fans, and I'm excited to go back and play."
Boyle was another fan favorite for his physical style of play, something that might not endear him to Rangers fans beyond an opening introduction Monday.
"This is my team now. This is where my loyalties are," Boyle said. "It's different. It's in the past. I have fond memories, a lot of respect for the Rangers, the utmost respect -- it was a blast. I'm thankful to be here, too."
The Lightning is happy to have all three.
Boyle, who had only six goals in 82 games for the Rangers last season, has five in 17 games for Tampa Bay. Stralman is only three points (2-8-10) off his season total from 2013-14. Callahan, who had a goal and an assist in the Lightning's 5-2 win over the Islanders, has 13 points in 13 games.