While the New York Rangers appear to be the favorites to land Kevin Shattenkirk, the Blueshirts must stay away from what is likely to be a huge price tag.
The rumor mill that reads “Kevin Shattenkirk to the New York Rangers” has continuously churned since last year’s trade deadline. Whether it has been analysts speculating over a potential move to his hometown squad or fans drooling over what his presence would mean in the Big Apple, the rumor-driven chatter has simply not stopped.
There is no debating whether Shattenkirk would be a good fit with the Blueshirts. The St. Louis Blues’ blue liner grew up in New Rochelle and has been rumored to have wanted to join the Blueshirts before his career comes to a close. More importantly, the Rangers desperately need a puck-mover who can move up and down the ice in smooth fashion, which is exactly what they lost when they sent Keith Yandle sign packing to Florida. Shattenkirk would certainly help replace his point production and ability to move the puck from zone to zone.
The question that has been frequently pondered by Rangers fans regarding a potential Shattenkirk move to Manhattan is whether Jeff Gorton should match the sizable price tag that would have to be met in order to bring Shattenkirk to New York.
While the popular answer may be a resounding yes, the wise move would be to steer clear of the puck-moving specialist. Here’s why:
First, let me start by stating that, whether the Blueshirts were to acquire Shattenkirk via free agency or a trade deadline swap, the 27-year-old will not come cheap. Players of Shattenkirk’s quality (young right-handed defenseman who can distribute the puck up and down the ice) simply do not grow on trees and if Gorton and company are serious about bringing the top-four point man to the Big Apple, it will come at a very hefty price.
With San Jose Sharks’ star Brent Burns penning a massive extension a couple weeks back, Shattenkirk has now officially become the top defenseman in this year’s razor-thin free agent class. And if Burns’ contract (eight years at $8 million per season for a player who will be 32 in March) is any indication as to what Shattenkirk will get, then he is going to become a very rich man.
When he does reach the open market (assuming he doesn’t decide to extend his time in St. Louis), the 28-year-old to be will presumably command at least six (possibly seven) years at around $6-7 million per year. A deal like that (let’s say he signs for six-years, $36 million) will take him through his age 34 season.
Right off the bat, the Rangers could have issues affording Shattenkirk.
According to Spotrac, the Blueshirts currently have around $1.325 million in cap room. With Tanner Glass and Chris Summers coming off the books this summer, along with guys like Brandon Pirri, Matt Puempel and Adam Clendening (whose chances of returning to New York are minimal, given what we’ve seen the Blueshirts do with guys coming off one-year deals), the Rangers will likely have around $5-6 million to work with when the offseason begins.
In addition, some cap space will be freed up through the expansion draft as well. At the moment, it’s unclear who the Blueshirts will lose, but a likely candidate to go would be Michael Grabner due to his cheap contract and stellar play in the early going. Dissolving his contract would leave the Rangers with about $7.6 million to work with.
Zibanejad is likely to get a contract similar to that of Derek Stepan (six-years for around $6 million per year) and Fast could see his salary double to $1.8 million. That would create a large dent into the Blueshirts’ cap flexibility, giving the Rangers around $3.325 million of room to maneuver.
So unless Shattenkirk is willing to take a notable pay cut or the Rangers make a big move, like a Rick Nash trade or buyout of Dan Girardi or Marc Staal, both of which look improbable, the likelihood of a deal getting done between the two sides looks awfully murky.
A deal for Shattenkirk would also mean the Rangers would be investing a good percentage of money in their aging defensive corps. If Shattenkirk were to sign the deal that I proposed earlier, then the Blueshirts would have nearly $22 million set aside (per year) for four defenseman (Shattenkirk, Girardi, Staal, and Ryan McDonagh), all of which will be past their 28th birthdays come the start of next season.
With all this in mind, is it even worth going through the trouble to get the 2015 All-Star?
Although Shattenkirk is regarded as one of the game’s best puck possession drivers and point manufacturers among defenseman, his stats in these categories are inflated to say the least.
Since he made his debut back in 2010 with the Colorado Avalanche, Shattenkirk possesses a 53.76 Corsi percentage, which ranks 13th among defensemen who have played in at least 200 games since the start of the 2010-2011 campaign. What is overlooked, however, is his 55.78 Zone Start percentage. The fact that he is on the ice for that many faceoffs in the offensive zone allows for more shot attempts when Shattenkirk is on the ice and, in result, more puck possession.
In addition, Shattenkirk is on pace to set career-highs in goals and assists this year, as he has netted six and helped on 13 through 25 contests. Only one of his helpers, however, is a primary assist and only 93 of his 200 career assists are primary (just 46.5%).
Where Shattenkirk would help out the most is on the man advantage. The former first-round pick has been an absolute machine on the power play throughout his career, as he has posted at least 25 points in the past three years in these situations, and already has 12 points in only 25 games this season.
The Blueshirts’ power play has been dynamite this year, however, and the Rangers’ need for a power play quarterback isn’t as big as many thought it would be before the season began. Ryan McDonagh has used his quality decision-making and good puck distribution to man the top power play unit with great efficiency, while rookie Brady Skjei has also done a solid job handling the second unit.
Kevin Shattenkirk would absolutely be an attractive addition on Broadway. His New York background and puck-moving abilities would certainly help the Rangers out in more ways than not. Nevertheless, chasing his highly sought-after signature would be a mistake for the Rangers. Spending big on Shattenkirk would create a cap conundrum for the Blueshirts, forcing them to chop into their marvelous forward depth.
This is a Ranger-like temptation that the front office must avoid.