The Tampa Bay Lightning have announced that they will retire Martin St. Louis’ number 26 during a January 13th game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. St. Louis’ former coach, John Tortorella, is the current coach of the Blue Jackets. In his Lightning career, St. Louis played 972 regular season games and scored 365 goals, 588 assists, and 953 points. Those stats rank him 2nd, 2nd, 1st, and 1st in Lightning franchise history. He won the Stanley Cup in 2004, the Art Ross trophy twice, the Hart Trophy once, the Ted Lindsey Award once, and the Lady Byng Trophy three times. He was also a first-team All-Star once and a second-team All-Star four times. In addition, he won a gold medal with Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics.
Martin St. Louis is having his number retired despite a rather controversial end to his time in Tampa. After being initially left off of the Sochi Olympics roster in 2013-14, he asked general manage Steve Yzerman, also the general manager for Team Canada at the time, for a trade. Yzerman did not relent right away and St. Louis ultimately was added to the Olympic roster as an injury replacement for Steven Stamkos. After returning from the Olympics, the rift remained and St. Louis again reasserted his trade demands. He also had complete control of where he could go and gave Yzerman only one option; the New York Rangers.
Despite being handcuffed by St. Louis’ demands and restrictions, Yzerman pulled off what may be one of the greatest trades in his tenure as general manage. He acquired Ryan Callahan and two first round picks in exchange for St. Louis. In addition, there was a conditional seventh round pick that would go to Tampa and a second round pick that would go to New York if Ryan Callahan re-signed with Tampa, which he did.
With the re-signing of Callahan, Yzerman was also able to attract New York Rangers free agents Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle to the team with Callahan’s assistance. Both have been important pieces for the Lightning the past two years and have proven to be bargains for the contracts that they signed. Steve Yzerman ended up spinning those two first round picks into four total picks selecting Dominik Masin, Jonathan MacLeod, Mitchell Stephens, and Anthony Cirelli.
While many fans are still made at St. Louis, the Lightning likely were not going far in the playoffs due to their problems on defense and Ben Bishop’s injury. There was also going to have to be a point where St. Louis parted with the team and he had only one additional year left on his contract when he was traded. This way, Yzerman was able to improve the team in both the short and long term and for that, I do thank St. Louis for his selfishness.