With Kevin Shattenkirk on his way to the Washington Capitals, the dream of him playing for the New York Rangers is on hold … for now.
The rumors began to swirl in the offseason. They persisted over the first four months of the 2016-17 campaign. Many expected the trade to happen by the March 1 deadline date.
But to the dismay of plenty of Rangers fans, the defenseman will not be wearing the Original Six sweater … yet.
Late Monday night, the Washington Capitals decided to pull off a blockbuster trade for Shattenkirk. In return, the St. Louis Blues will receive a 2017 first round pick, a conditional second round pick and prospect Zach Sanford, the 61st overall pick in the 2013 draft.
Before the transaction took place, the Capitals (41-13-7, 89 points) were the number one team in the NHL. With many believing they could capture the elusive Stanley Cup in 2017, making a move for the top available prize further proves the organization’s all-in narrative.
On the surface, it seems foolish that the Rangers didn’t pull the trigger on a deal.
He would be a near-perfect fit in Madison Square Garden. The Blueshirts have Ryan McDonagh, Brady Skjei and Nick Holden all playing at a high level but the banged up trio of Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Kevin Klein have been more of a hindrance than a help. Meanwhile, Shattenkirk is regarded as one of the best two-way defensemen in the game — his strength and athleticism help him in his own zone while his vision and passing ability make him an asset both on offense and in power play situations.
And if you’re not convinced Shattenkirk is a match on the ice, it’s hard to argue about how he fits in off of it.
The 28-year-old is a New York native, growing up in the suburbs of New Rochelle, just a half-hour drive from Midtown Manhattan. Shattenkirk was a massive Rangers fan growing up. He revered all-time great defenseman Brian Leetch and was coached by former team captain Dave Maloney in his youth hockey days.
A union does seem like a match made in heaven. But Rangers fans shouldn’t fret — it wasn’t the right time to bring Shattenkirk to New York.
Even if he agreed to an extension, the price tag was too steep for a rental. The Rangers have put an emphasis on keeping their early round picks for this upcoming draft — something they didn’t mind giving up in the past.
They would’ve also had to give up at least one young player on their roster. Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes are playing consistent hockey for the first time in their young careers. J.T. Miller (19 goals, 28 assists) looks like one of the brightest young players in hockey. The Rangers have also invested a lot in prospects like Ryan Gropp, Sean Day, Ryan Graves, and Robin Kovacs, amongst others. Their commitment to youth is obvious and that would’ve been sacrificed in any trade for Shattenkirk.
Most importantly, however, is the team’s status. After retooling in the offseason, the Rangers are having a better season than expected. But even though they’re 40-20-2, have 82 points and will be playing postseason hockey, they’re not looked at as a legitimate Cup contender this year.
There’s no denying that the Rangers need a right-handed shot, a quarterback on the power play and new life on the blue line. Shattenkirk checks everything off on that list.
The dream of pairing him with McDonagh is far from dead but the timing just wasn’t right.
July 1, however, may be a different story. That’s when the Rangers can finally land their man.