O Captain, my Captain, my Captain no longer.

What I have dreaded for weeks now has just been made official.  The New York Rangers have traded their Captain, Ryan Callahan, to the Tampa Bay Lightning in return for Martin St. Louis.  The deal also includes the Blueshirts' second round pick in 2014 - which becomes a first round pick if the Rangers reach the conference finals - and a first round pick in 2015.  Additionally if Callahan, who will be a free agent at year's end, signs an extension with the Lightning, the Rangers will be compensated with a draft pick.

Early reaction has largely hailed the deal as beneficial to both sides - the Lightning add grit and defense while jettisoning a now moping St. Louis, the Rangers add the offensive speed and skill that better fits their coach's system by moving a will-be free agent with outrageous contract demands.

Demands, though, that had become less egregious in recent days.  Which is part of the reason why I find myself loathing this deal so.  Yes, St. Louis will hook up nicely with his former teammate Brad Richards, and he'll certainly help boost the offensive production of those like Rick Nash and Chris Kreider.  Who, though, will take on Callahan's role?  The Rangers have been prone, all year, to calamitous defensive mishaps involving forwards leaving men unmarked.  Will St. Louis help, or exacerbate the problem?  Who will be the shot-blocking forward who plays the tough minutes in front of the net, on the forecheck, and on the penalty kill?

Who will lead the team?

Certainly there will be solid options to do all of the above - Kreider, Stepan, Girardi, Staal, etc. - but none, I fear, will do them as well as the man we had been calling our Captain.

And maybe that bit of over-sentimentality is why this deal hurts as much as it does.  Ryan Callahan was our Captain.  He was the type of guy every sports fan wants every athlete to be - all heart, all effort, no talk, no nonsense.  He was a guy you were proud - as ridiculous as that sounds - to root for.

He wasn't just another player.  He was the reason you loved to watch.  And now he's gone.

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