Considered the prize of free agency, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk turned down lucrative deals to come home and sign with the New York Rangers.
It was a match made in hockey heaven.
The New York Rangers entered the offseason with one clear need — a puck-moving defenseman with a right-handed shot that can also quarterback the power play. Kevin Shattenkirk is a righty. He’s recognized as one of the most skilled offensive defensemen around. He’s a force on the power play.
But the match didn’t end there. Shattenkirk grew up in New Rochelle, New York, 20 miles north of Madison Square Garden. He was five years old when the Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994. His favorite player was Brian Leetch and was coached by Dave Maloney as an amateur.
Shattenkirk also entered the summer as one of the biggest names on the free agent market.
And that’s where the link between both sides was at a standstill.
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Shattenkirk was linked to the Rangers over the past year. But General Manager Jeff Gorton didn’t want to part with the necessary pieces to acquire him from the St. Louis Blues this season, and he was going to have his fair share of suitors on the open market.
Most importantly, many believed his contract demands were going to be too rich for blue blood.
Many experts expected Shattenkirk to receive a contract of at least six years and at least $40 million. The New Jersey Devils had no issue forking over that type of deal, and the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals were all linked to the 28-year-old that’s still in his prime.
Gorton didn’t want to go down that road. He witnessed first hand what it’s like to give a lot of money and a lot of years for players nearing their 30s. Because of this, he had to buy out Dan Girardi earlier this season and is contemplating what to do with Marc Staal.
But sometimes years and money don’t mean as much — especially when you follow your heart. And that’s how the Rangers were able to land Shattenkirk on a modest four-year, $26.6 million deal.
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) July 1, 2017
“There were some sacrifices to be made,” Shattenkirk told reporters. “But in my mind, those are what you leave on the table to live out a dream like this.”
With Shattenkirk now in the fold, the Rangers have a new-look blue line that suits the playing style of head coach Alain Vigneault. Shattenkirk and captain Ryan McDonagh will form the first pair and could be amongst the best duos in all of the NHL.
Second-year player Brady Skjei performed like one of the best young talents in the game, and he will join the gritty and underrated Brendan Smith, who the Rangers just re-signed to a four-year, $17.4 million contract. And even though Staal and Nick Holden aren’t guaranteed roster spots come opening night, the organization can do much worse.
Shattenkirk had more goals (13) and assists (43) than any Rangers’ defenseman in 2016 and he’s expected to bring that offensive prowess on a nightly basis on Broadway. His 27 powerplay points will also be vital to a man advantage that was arguably the team‘s biggest shortcoming during their brief playoff run.
Most importantly, he’ll bring a newfound energy to the Garden, as he’ll be the hometown boy playing for his hometown team in front of his hometown fans.
But who am I to say? Shattenkirk — the newest New York Ranger — said it best.
“To play for the team you grew up watching, rooting for — it’s a lifelong goal.”
— Elite Sports NY (@EliteSportsNY) July 1, 2017