Kevin Shattenkirk
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

The New York Rangers cut Kevin Shattenkirk loose. Given the circumstances, it’s sad it had to end this way. It was a case of wrong place, wrong time. 

This week, the New York Rangers took advantage of their second buyout window to unload Kevin Shattenkirk‘s contract. The Blueshirts will carry some dead cap space for the next four years, but now have more room to help sign restricted free agents Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemieux.

It’s hard to not feel bad for Shattenkirk here.

The New Rochelle native took a hometown discount of four years and $26.6 million to play with the team he rooted for as a child. Unfortunately, things just did not work out for him as a Ranger.

There were two main factors that lead to him not working out. First, he suffered some injuries that really threw him off his game. Also, when Shattenkirk became a Ranger, the teams window to compete was about to slam shut.

His first year on Broadway, Shattenkirk played his entire season with a bad left knee. This injury was hampering him since training camp. When January came around, Shattenkirk couldn’t keep playing through it and got surgery to repair a torn meniscus. This surgery shut him down for the remainder of the season.

As if things could not get any worse for Shattenkirk, in February of that season, the Rangers announced the start of their rebuild. Shattenkirk thought he was joining a team that was going to be a Stanley Cup contender.

After all, at that point, the Rangers made the playoffs every year since 2011. But it was evident that the window was closing and Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton couldn’t keep beating a dead horse.

Suddenly, the prized free agent’s spot on the team was not so secure anymore. Things did not get better for Shattenkirk the next season. Not only did he suffer a shoulder injury that put him out for three weeks, but he also couldn’t find his game with a new coach in David Quinn.

In 73 games last year, Shattenkirk only put up five more points (28) than he did the previous year (23) when he only played 46 games hurt. In fact, Quinn even made Shattenkirk a healthy scratch at one point.

Nobody’s roster spot is safe in a rebuild, and this was the beginning of the end for Shattenkirk. Maybe if Shattenkirk duplicated his production from his first year in New York over a longer period of time, then perhaps we are talking about someone else getting bought out here. But in this case, it was Shattenkirk who couldn’t fit the mold, making it easier to make him a cap casualty.

If Shattenkirk was able to remain healthy and this team’s window for a Stanley Cup still be open, then we could have had something special at Madison Square Garden. Shattenkirk to the Rangers could have been what Patrick Maroon was to the St. Louis Blues. A hometown kid, taking a discount to come home and help win a Stanley Cup. But where the hockey gods rewarded Maroon, they were cruel to Shattenkirk.

The Rangers are slowly starting to reopen that window. With the big free-agent signing of Artemi Panarin, the trade for Jacob Trouba and the drafting of Kaapo Kakko, the team is making good decisions. Unfortunately, the Rangers need to free up cap space and roster spots to bring these guys in. This sport is a business after all.

We all wish Shattenkirk’s time in New York panned out better. Even Rangers president, John Davidson thought this move was bittersweet.

“Today’s decision was a very difficult one,” Davidson said. “Kevin is a great person and teammate and he was extremely proud to be a New York Ranger. We wish him and his family all the best going forward.”

If there is any solace to take out of this, it’s that Shattenkirk lived his dream for two years. He was lucky enough to play for the team he grew up rooting for. Not many NHL players get to say they accomplished that.

How should we describe Shattenkirk’s time as a Ranger? It was a simple case of wrong place, wrong time.

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