Steve Yzerman pays price, trades Martin St. Louis to New York Rangers
Steve Yzerman demonstrated his character and integrity when he decided not to overrule the management group decision to exclude Martin St. Louis on Team Canada's original Sochi Olympic roster. And it cost him.
The Lightning GM's relationship with Tampa Bay's captain turned toxic in the wake of that perceived snub, so much so that even the eventual inclusion of St. Louis as an injury replacement couldn't soothe the raw feelings.
And so Yzerman was forced on Wednesday to do the unthinkable. Faced with a star who no longer wanted to play for him, he traded the NHL's fifth-leading scorer to the Rangers for winger Ryan Callahan and a pair of draft picks.
It's easy to argue that Yzerman made the best deal he could under the circumstances. St. Louis wasn't just in full pout. He only wanted to go to one team and, having a no trade clause in his back pocket, he had the power to ensure that New York was exactly where he went.
So it's to his credit that Yzerman was able to extract as much as he did from his counterpart, Glen Sather: a 2015 first rounder -- a fairly desirable asset given the current perception of next year's draft class -- and a 2014 second rounder that converts to a first if the Rangers advance to the Eastern Conference finals. That's a very real possibility with St. Louis in place to lead the offense.
Both of those picks have significant value, but that value will only be realized far down the road. Unless Yzerman flips them to bring in players who can contribute immediately, they do nothing to help this season's team.
The value of Callahan is debatable. His character and willingness to do whatever it takes to win are undeniable, but that's a wildly different skill set from the player he's replacing. Plus, he's a pending free agent with contract demands that the Bolts are unlikely to meet, meaning he'll skate away for nothing this summer.
And so Tampa Bay is a worse team for having made the deal, and its chances of competing for the Eastern Conference crown -- chances that looked promising not so long ago -- have taken a huge hit, even with the return of Steven Stamkos slated for later this week.
It's hard to believe that this deal couldn't have been postponed until the summer, that the bad feelings couldn't be put aside long enough to see this promising season through to the end. That it wasn't speaks to just how badly the relationship between Yzerman and St. Louis had deteriorated. And that speaks to how selfishly St. Louis has behaved in the wake of the Team Canada snub.
What he, or any rational adult, should have understood was that the decision to leave him off of the Olympic roster wasn't personal. Nor was it exclusively that of Yzerman. True, he had the final say and could have used his power to grant St. Louis a spot. But his responsibility wasn't to his friends and associates. He was charged with building the best possible Olympic team for Canada and, given how things turned out in Sochi, he obviously knew what he was doing.
Feelings were bound to be hurt in the process, but Yzerman approached his dealings with maturity.