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Callahan Injury Means Possibly Both Cap And Expansion Flexibility

This past Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced that forward Ryan Callahan will be out indefinitely after having to undergo a follow-up procedure on his right hip in New York the day before. It is the same hip that Callahan had surgery on last summer, as the first procedure had a timetable of a five-month return, costing him his roster spot at the World Cup of Hockey. Callahan has only suited up for 18 games this season, tallying a two goals and two assists. He missed the first eight games of the season before returning on October 30 before returning for 15 games. After suffering a setback with his hip, he missed 15 more games before playing three more in early January. On January 15, he was expected to miss another four weeks. After that time period came and went, there was no progress in his recovery, as he was still suffering discomfort in his hip. This necessitated the most recent surgery that will likely have him sidelined for the remainder of the season.

Callahan turns 32 on March 21, and while he isn’t the same player in terms of offensive production, the Lightning have sorely missed his leadership on the ice and in the room, as well as his ability to kill penalties and his willingness to go into the dirty areas. Despite having a second hip surgery in less than a year, the news isn’t all bad for the Lightning in both the short-term and the long-term.

For starters, Callahan’s $5.8 million salary cap hit can be placed on long-term injured reserve, which is what the Lightning did when Steven Stamkos went down with a knee injury in mid-November. Although they haven’t done the same with Callahan yet, that option is certainly there, and it would give Tampa Bay some much-needed short-term salary cap flexibility if they decide to make a deal or two ahead of Wednesday’s trade deadline at 3 pm. Although the Lightning recently had a seven-game point streak snapped that helped them move further up in the crowded Eastern Conference playoff race, they’re far from a lock to get into the postseason. The Lightning sit seven points behind Toronto for the second wild card spot and eight behind Boston for third place in the Atlantic Division with 22 games remaining. Their status as buyers or sellers at the deadline will probably hinge greatly on Monday’s crucial contest against the Ottawa Senators at Amalie Arena, especially since it’s a divisional game. The team could still use another defenseman, but it remains to be seen whether or not a move will be made by the deadline.

The long-term effects of declaring Callahan out indefinitely should be a benefit for both his health and possibly the team’s situation heading into June’s expansion draft. The most important thing is that Callahan takes the time to rest up, rehab his hip, and then return to the team fully healthy in 2017-18, as he probably came back too soon from last summer’s surgery. As for the expansion draft, Callahan has a no-movement clause (NMC) in his contract, meaning that he must be protected by the Lightning when the Vegas Golden Knights put their roster together in mid-June. However, Callahan has three years left on his deal after this season with that aforementioned $5.8 million cap hit. He’s about to be 32 and he’s coming off two hip surgeries in eight months. Being that it’s unlikely that Vegas would select Callahan, the Lightning could request that he waive his NMC so they could protect someone else in the expansion draft.

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