Try to find a hockey fan with something negative to say about Martin St. Louis. You probably can’t. However, if the Tampa Bay Lightning captain is traded to the New York Rangers after reportedly asking for exactly that, his reputation could take a significant hit.
The 38-year-old Olympic gold medallist is one of the most revered veterans in the NHL and has been a loyal member of the Lightning since 2000, so this entire ordeal seems out of character for the two-time Art Ross and three-time Lady Byng Memorial Trophy winner.
We all know the situation: Lightning GM Steve Yzerman initially left St. Louis off Team Canada’s Sochi roster despite many believing he deserved a spot; St. Louis was clearly upset with Yzerman’s decision and seemingly held a grudge because that’s when he initially asked to be traded, according to multiple reports.
However, since St. Louis was eventually named a replacement for teammate Steven Stamkos and he went on to win a gold medal, you’d think the term “water under the bridge” would apply. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
That this is unfolding out in the open puts the Lightning in an awkward position. There’s no real benefit to keeping a player who doesn’t want to be there, but the team isn’t in dire need to move him because he’s still under contract until the end of the 2014-15 season. If the team gives in to the player’s demands, it makes the organization look weak. Even if Tampa got a decent return, it loses its captain. And with the Lightning currently second in the Atlantic Division, moving its leader would have a major impact on a group that hopes to do damage in the post-season.
The 2004 Hart Memorial Trophy recipient isn’t the only established star currently in this type of situation, either. Vancouver Canucks centre Ryan Kesler has also reportedly asked to be traded for various reasons.
Seldom do trade requests go over well with fans, regardless of the player’s popularity. Retired stars like Eric Lindros and Patrick Roy were heavily criticized during their careers for the way they handled trade demands.
Lindros and Roy could at times be brash, but St. Louis is known as a stoic player who leads by example. If he remains steadfast in his request to be dealt to the Rangers, what message does that send to others around the league? Not a positive one.
Players like St. Louis and Kesler have no-trade clauses and control their own fate, but when athletes who are paid millions of dollars ask for trades while under contract, it can tarnish their image fast.
From the day he was passed over in the NHL draft to when he was snubbed for Team Canada, St. Louis has been an underdog we can cheer for. That will change if he is wearing a Rangers sweater come March 5.
Here are some other high profile players from recent years who wanted out:
Dany Heatley – Heatley demanded a trade from the Ottawa Senators after the 2008-09 campaign despite signing a six-year contract extension the year prior. The Sens had a deal in place with the Edmonton Oilers, but Heatley refused to waive his no-trade clause to go there. He was eventually sent to the San Jose Sharks. Sens fans have never forgotten.
Chris Pronger – After a successful run to the Stanley Cup final with the Oilers in 2005-06, Pronger asked to be moved in the off-season. It was reported at the time that Pronger's request was due to the fact his wife didn’t like living in the city. Pronger was dealt to Anaheim, where he’d go on to win the Stanley Cup in his first year with the Ducks.
Kyle Turris – In 2011 as a restricted free agent, Turris and the Phoenix Coyotes were unable to reach an agreement on a new contract. The youngster was a holdout at the start of the 2011-12 season, during which he asked for a trade. Turris and the Coyotes eventually agreed on a two-year deal. However, a month later he was traded to Ottawa, where he has played his best hockey as a pro.
Rick Nash – After spending the first nine seasons of his NHL career with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the 2002 first-overall pick offered to waive his no-trade clause to get a fresh start in a new city. Nash leaving the Blue Jackets was the worst kept secret in hockey in the summer of 2012.
Roberto Luongo – In what could be the most talked-about non-trade in NHL history, the Canucks netminder was on the block for about a full calendar after he asked for a trade following the 2011-12 season and his demotion to Cory Schneider’s backup. The possible destinations were narrowed down to a handful of teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers, but in the end, the Canucks kept Luongo, electing to send Schneider to the New Jersey Devils instead.