After the dust settled from the J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes, and Chris Kreider contracts and the Derick Brassard trade the Rangers were left with a considerable amount of cap space. Some have speculated that the cap space that Jeff Gorton has created in the will go towards a trade involving the Rangers' defense.
The Rangers goaltending situation is rock solid and the forward depth, for the moment, looks good on paper. Adding Mika Zibanejad brings another promising, big forward to the mix and Michael Grabner and Nathan Gerbe add solid offensive depth and penalty killing. There's also the "x factor" of Pavel Buchnevich and what he can bring in his rookie season.
But, for the most part, the defense has not changed beyond the addition of Nick Holden and the departures of Keith Yandle and Dan Boyle. And it is on the blue line where the Rangers biggest problems currently reside.
The most obvious target for the Rangers is the Blues' Shattenkirk. The Connecticut-born defenseman has been attached to trade rumors since before last season's trade deadline. Every week there seems to be more smoke about Shattenkirk being moved and the Rangers being a potential landing spot.
So, how does Shattenkirk become a Ranger?
Trading for Shattenkirk Now
The two most important things to keep in mind in a hypothetical trade to acquire Shattenkirk are his contract and what goes back to the Blues. Shattenkirk has one year left on his contract. He has a cap hit of $4.25 million next season and then he will hit free agency at 28 years old.
A little recent history on the asset-only trade cost of NHL defensemen (1 year away from unrestricted free agency): pic.twitter.com/dojs7TKeFv— HockeyStatMiner (@HockeyStatMiner) July 23, 2016
Something to keep in mind is that the Blues are Cup contenders just like the Rangers (think they) are. Shattenkirk will have to be coaxed away from Doug Armstrong with an attractive enough package to land a top-pairing defender that is in his prime.
"We started last year with Troy Brouwer and David Backes in the same situation, we had 107 or 108 points and made it to the semifinals. I think if you're always trying to trade players as they enter the last year of their contracts, I don't know that you're ever going to have a really good team if you're running away from free agency. Free agency is part of our game, and you make those free agent decisions." -Doug Armstrong on July 1st
Valuable pieces are going to have to go the other way in this trade. Names like Kevin Klein, Oscar Lindberg, Dylan McIlrath, and even Rick Nash have been suggested as possible pieces. Of course, attached to those names would be the possibility of retained salary, draft picks, and prospects... if the Rangers had any to offer.
Make no mistake, Shattenkirk would help the Rangers. He would bring puck movement, possession, and talent to a blue line that now is in desperate need of those traits. But it's crucial to keep in mind what would be going the other way, especially with Shattenkirk becoming a UFA next July.
Trade Deadline Deal
Because these have worked out so well for the Rangers in the past, right?
The price tag on a deadline deal for Shattenkirk would depend on where both the Rangers and Blues are in late February.
If the Rangers find themselves in a similar situation to where they were last February, they cannot afford another Eric Staal blockbuster. Renting high profile players (especially those past their prime) for playoff runs has come at too great a cost for New York. It guts the team of prospects, picks, and young, cheap talent. Rarely, if ever, has it proven to be worth the gamble.
Waiting Until the 2017 Offseason
The cost of signing Shattenkirk a year from now as a UFA could be downright brutal. Gorton also has Zibanejad to re-sign that summer and several other rangers RFAs. The biggest UFA contract coming off of the books after this upcoming season will be Tanner Glass and his $1.45 million cap hit.
With multiple teams and multiple check books involved, fishing for Shattenkirk in open free agency waters next July will be expensive. Talking an extension with him after acquiring him in a trade could save the team significant money and cap space. Maybe. Possibly.
The upside of waiting is that Shattenkirk will still be on the right side of 30 and it won't cost the team any draft picks or valuable prospects. The Rangers' cupboard of young talent is rather barren at the moment.
Whether or not Shattenkirk would like to be playing for the Rangers is irrelevant at the moment. He doesn't have a no trade or no movement clause in his contract. The Blues want to win the Cup and Shattenkirk will help them do that. But if they do want to move him, they can move Shattenkirk anywhere they'd like. This means that he will go to the team that offers the best package.
Just how much should Gorton and the Rangers be willing to give up for one year of Shattenkirk with the potential of signing him to a massive extension? The size of that price tag is scary for a team that has had one first round pick and three second round picks since 2012.
A trade for Shattenkirk would make it clear that Gorton and the Rangers are going "all in" on the Cup in 2016-17. With Henrik Lundqvist blowing out 35 candles in March, it might be the team's last best chance in awhile. But that doesn't mean it would be the right thing to do.