In the off-season, the Ryan Callahan got the bad news that the surgery to repair a hip labral tear would keep him on the shelf for five months. That meant missing the World Cup of Hockey, sitting out the start of the campaign and not making his way back into the lineup until the end of October.
But no one would have expected that Callahan’s issues with his hip would get quite this bad.
After returning to action for the Lightning’s final game of October, Callahan suited up for the next 14 games, but with his injury flaring up, he was forced to sit out the next 15 games, missing more than a month of action. He finally got back into action to for Tampa Bay’s first game of 2017, but less than a week later Callahan was back on the sideline and the Lightning don’t expect him back anytime soon. It was announced that the “nagging lower-body injury” would force Callahan out for another four weeks.
Asked about the injury, Lightning coach Jon Cooper was open about the situation, admitting there was “lot’s of concern” about Callahan’s health at the moment.
“Everybody knows who follows our team what a gamer he is, his passion to play and to help our team, especially when things haven't gone as well as we'd have hoped,” Cooper said, per TampaBayLightning.com. “For him to get in for (three) games and have to be out with some lingering effects with some past issues he's had, it's killing the kid. So, you feel for him. We're missing an emotional leader. It's tough all the way around.”
And there is no doubt concern for Callahan, who now has played only 18 games this season and could potentially play less than half the campaign by the time he gets back into action. The only good news in all of this, if you can call it that, is that the four weeks Callahan is out will likely include the weeklong break the Lightning get in mid-February. That will give him ample opportunity to heal up without the worry of missing action.
More than the short-term, though, the Lightning have to be worried about what Callahan’s injury could mean for the future. Since coming over to Tampa Bay in a blockbuster deal at the 2014 trade deadline, Callahan hasn’t had to miss much time at all. All told, he has been sidelined for just 14 games over the past two seasons. However, with his current ailment persisting for roughly seven months post-surgery, there has to be some worry that the next three seasons of his contract could be awfully tough to get through.
That has to be a worry for Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, too. It wouldn’t be too tough a criticism to call the Callahan contract one that the Lightning wish they could get out from under because of the term and salary remaining for a player who has become a fixture in middle-to-bottom half of the lineup but is out-earning all but Ben Bishop and Steven Stamkos this season. And with three years at $5.8-million per remaining, the contract could provide a significant roadblock when it comes to inking some of the free agents Tampa Bay will have to deal with in the near future, including Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Jonathan Drouin.
A healthy Callahan gives the Lightning more options when it comes to making their roster work, even if that means finding creative ways to maneuver around the salary cap due to his hefty contract. But if the injury continues to haunt him, putting him in and out of the lineup for the next few seasons, that’s the worst-case scenario for everyone.
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