As we approach the March 1st NHL Trade Deadline the rumor machine will begin to spin and whir at an ever-increasing volume until it becomes overwhelming. It’s already started to an extent with everyone’s favorite New York Rangers rumor Kevin Shattenkirk.
There’s been a longstanding “secret” that Shattenkirk (who grew up in New Rochelle as a Rangers fan and has agents based in Connecticut) wants to play on Broadway. In fact, we discussed this as far back as February of last year, then again this summer.
Adam first looked at the possibility (the first link) and explained it further:
Shattenkirk isn't a new name to surface in Rangers' trade rumors. The New York Daily News' Pat Leonard has recently speculated about the Blues' defenseman, stating that Shattenkirk's representatives declined comment on the idea. However, Blueshirt Banter has learned, per a well-informed source, that Shattenkirk is not hiding the fact that the idea of being traded to the Rangers is very appealing to him. It's a move he very much would like. This is not to say that Shattenkirk is requesting a trade, or applying pressure for a move, or that he would not and will not sign anywhere else; St. Louis included. To put it simply, there's no fire here yet, but certainly a good amount of smoke.
The Rangers desperately need a real power play quarterback and an upgrade to their top-four defensive corps. They’re going to have major issues adding too much salary without shedding some (especially with big paydays on the horizon) but outside of the money Shattenkirk solves both the team’s main defensive needs. He’s got 281 points in 466 games, and this year is poised to have a career year (he’s on pace to notch 57 points).
He turned 28 in January, and is young enough that the enormous contract you’d need to send his way would hold him until he turned 35 (similar to Keith Yandle’s deal in Florida, if only in length). He could command over $7-million on the open market, although it remains to be seen how much he’d ask or if he’d give the Rangers a “hometown discount.”
Either way, his possession numbers (over 53% since 2013) speak for themselves, and his offense (stats above) do as well. Sure, there’s a expected drop off as a player ages but players like Shattenkirk historically age better than, say, a Dan Girardi or Kevin Klein. You take risks on a guy who gives you more than just “shot blocking and toughness.” I would have taken the risk on Yandle, but who am I?
All of this aside, things are moving in St. Louis. This summer they were fine with keeping Shattenkirk for a Stanley Cup run and losing him this summer for nothing. Then they started losing (a lot), fired their coach and have smartened up enough to realize losing him for nothing isn’t the best idea.
There’s probably a real temptation here for Jeff Gorton to jump into this fray and try to pry Shattenkirk away from St. Louis but also (maybe more importantly) away from teams who might make a bid to keep him off the market come July.
I understand the desire to make sure Shattenkirk doesn’t land in, say, Boston where there’s a logical fear he’d stick around before the Rangers got a crack at him. I understand the desire to make a move to give the Rangers the upper hand of exclusive negotiating rights -- because all this smoke means squat until his name is written in drying ink on a contract.
Gorton has an interesting set of cards in his hand. Patience seems to be the move that best suits him here, even if another team elects to go all in. If the Rangers as confident enough in Shattenkirk wanting to stay in New York if they did make a move for him then they should be willing to be patient.
Sure, Shattenkirk would make the Rangers a hell of a lot closer to contenders if he was brought around this year, but only if he fully replaced one of Kevin Klein/Dan Girardi and it doesn’t even take into account what it would cost to actually get him in the first place.
So waiting seems to be the best bet. The Rangers can’t keep going all in (although at least in this case they’d be getting something of long-term value) especially with a barren field that is their farm system. Outside of top-prospect Igor Shestyorkin the Rangers top prospect is probably Ryan Graves. From there? Robin Kovacs (who is struggling in Hartford -- although he’s been forced into a bottom-six role). From there? Well, it’s not great.
Continuing to dip into that well will not help. That includes giving away draft picks that will help stock that group.
The saving grace of the Rangers lack of prospects is the youth they have on the team. Guys like Brady Skjei, Pavel Buchnevich, Jimmy Vesey, Mika Zibanejad, J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes and Oscar Lindberg are all young enough to be “prospects” without actually being prospects since they’re at the NHL level. Guys like Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider and Ryan McDonagh are far from their 30th birthdays as well.
The core is there for the Rangers. They don’t need to change anything there, but they do need to add to their defense.
Doing it without touching that core should be the main priority. And the only way to do that is to be patient and wait.