By Dory LeBlanc
Follow @DoryLeBlanc

 

It's not always easy accepting a player you watched for over a dozen seasons is no longer a part of the team you cheer for - and the circumstances in which Martin St. Louis left may make it even tougher for some to accept. 

But lost in the initial reaction is that Tampa Bay now has a player who was a strong leader in New York and gives the Lightning what they need as they move toward a playoff berth - a two-way forward.

Ryan Callahan met with the media less than 24 hours after it was announced he was acquired, along with two draft picks, for the Lightning's former captain.

Cally, as he is affectionately referred to, is a seven-year veteran and recognizes the type of player St. Louis is, but made it very clear: he isn't in Tampa Bay to be St. Louis. 

"I think Marty's play speaks for itself," Callahan said. "He's one of the top players in this league and by no means am I coming in here and trying to replace what he did here, I'm coming in and trying to insert my energy - I'm hard on the forecheck, good penalty killer, you know - score when I have the opportunity. I'm just doing what I can to help the team and I'm not trying to change the way I play or how I approach the game.

"It's an exciting time for me and I'm happy to be part of the Lightning now."

Part of that excitement is the chance to play with one of the league's best in Steven Stamkos. 

"It's going to be fun to be on a team with him [Stamkos], he's a world class player," Callahan said. "You can see the way he leads, the way he plays, [he's] going to be an easy guy to follow."

For Stamkos, the admiration is mutual.

"He [Callahan] was tough to play against," Stamkos said. "When you look at - he does have a lot of the same qualities as Marty: he wears his heart on his sleeve, he plays with a chip, he's not the biggest guy but he's physical, fearless. I mean, you talk about shot blocking in the NHL, he's the first name that comes to mind. And just the style they play in New York that's a tough team to play against and he was their leader.

"We lose a leader, we get another leader."

It is highly unlikely that Callahan would be named captain, but his leadership skills will be appreciated none the less. According to Stamkos, so will his skillset.

"Cally's younger, he's been around this league for a while, he's been to the playoffs, he just brings that passion and can instill that and help us, you know, the leadership corps that's been here so he's going to fit right in.

"We have a lot of skill and we have a lot of speed on this team and you can never have enough of those gritty players. I mean, he can do all that. He has the skill - he's scored 29 goals in this league, over 50 points - he can do it all.

"We're happy. He's going to help the PK (penalty kill) for sure and we're excited about having him."

General Manager Steve Yzerman said yesterday that this is a "new era" for the Lightning; it looks as if at least two of the players are ready to embrace what the future holds. 

 

To hear what both players had to say following Thursday morning's pre-game skate, click the players below: