Callahan cleared for contact

Lost in the shuffle of a very newsworthy day in Vancouver on Thursday -- Derek Stepan and the Rangers finally agreed on a two-year deal, ending a worrisome contract stalemate -- was another heartening development for the club.

Captain Ryan Callahan has been cleared for contact.

That's a significant step for the 28-year-old winger, the heart-and-soul leader of the team, toward making his return to the lineup after having shoulder surgery this summer.

Though the Rangers doused any hope he'll be in the lineup on opening night, Oct. 3 against the Phoenix Coyotes, Callahan himself said a few weeks back that he's not ruling it out. Remember also that the Rangers said Marc Staal would not play in the 2012 Winter Classic when he was eyeing a return from a severe concussion; he did.

Regardless, the benchmark is a significant one in that it means the Rangers will not be without one of their most important offensive catalysts for long, a relief considering Carl Hagelin is also rehabbing his shoulder from the exact same surgery and is not expected to play the first few weeks of the season.

Callahan had 16 goals and 31 points for the Rangers last season.