TAMPA, Fla. - Former Rangers captain Ryan Callahan had an uneventful debut Thursday night in the Tampa Bay Lightning's 3-1 loss to Buffalo.
Callahan, who was traded to the Lightning on Wednesday along with a conditional 2014 second-round draft pick and a first-round pick in 2015 for Martin St. Louis, was on the ice for 16:33 (21 shifts). He had four shots on goal and four hits, won two faceoffs and was on the ice for Buffalo's first goal.
Callahan nearly scored at 12:48 of the first period, sitting on the doorstep with Buffalo goaltender Jhonas Enroth out of position, but couldn't push the puck through a scrum in front of the Sabres' goal.
Standing at the entrance to the Lightning locker room, his equipment sandwiched between new teammates Valtteri Filppula and Richard Panik Thursday morning, Callahan said there was an "initial shock" when he heard about the trade that sent him to Tampa Bay.
"I thought a deal was going to be done [in his contract talks with the Rangers], to be honest with you," Callahan said after his first morning skate with the Lightning. "But at the end of the day, both parties couldn't agree on something that worked for both of us . . . That's part of the business. They felt they needed to move on, so it's time for me to move on and start a new chapter."
Callahan, a 28-year-old right wing, was taken in the fourth round (127th overall) of the 2004 draft by the Rangers. He said it would be a "different feeling" wearing a new sweater but also "an exciting one."
"You're just trying to get everything to sink in," he said. "And once you take a deep breath, I realized I'm coming to a great organization, a great team, and I was extremely excited about that."
When Callahan met with Lightning coach Jon Cooper Thursday, Cooper stressed to the Rochester, N.Y., native that he should focus not on replacing St. Louis but on bringing his gritty style of play to a team that lacks toughness.
"My major message to him is . . . you're here because we really like you as a player and we feel we need that type of dynamic in our lineup," Cooper said. "Not dynamic in the sense that we expect you to score every night, but dynamic in a sense that we expect you to be at the net, we expect you to elevate our penalty kills, we expect you to play as hard as you did for the Rangers. If he gives us that type of effort, he's a home run for us, because we don't have enough of that in our lineup."
Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos, who returned after missing 45 games with a broken right tibia, said Callahan's fearless, physical style will fit right in with the Lightning.
Said Stamkos, "You talk about a shot-blocker in the NHL, he's the first name that comes to mind. Just the style that they played in New York, that's a tough team to play against, and he was their leader. We lose a leader [St. Louis], we get another leader."