Kevin Shattenkirk: The Perfect Player At The Perfect Price

Isn’t it amazing when a plan comes together?

Back in 2016, Adam write an article about how Kevin Shattenkirk, a lifelong New York Rangers fan, was quietly suggesting he wouldn’t be against being moved to his hometown Rangers.

The Blues, back then, were gunning for true contention, and were close enough that even though they were quietly exploring the trade market for Shattenkirk, they ended up not pulling the trigger at the time. A full year later, the Blues did pull the trigger on a Shattenkirk trade, and moved him to Washington at this year’s trade deadline. The Rangers, of course, were linked to Shattenkirk when it became clear St. Louis was going to move him, and I felt Jeff Gorton not paying for him at the deadline was the right move to make. From that story:

It was always clear the Blues were going to play differently with the Rangers. With the Rangers it wasn’t just a rental, but a long-term move. Sure, Washington could try to (and will) court Shattenkirk to keep him in the capital. Sure, it could work. Safe money is on Shattenkirk becoming a free agent in July, and there’s more than a little smoke hinting at him playing on Broadway come next October.

As we approached free agency, well, things slowly seemed to start unraveling. Due to the Rangers’ silence on the matter, it was assumed they were not as interested in Shattenkirk as he was supposedly interested in them. Gorton helped fuel this fire a little by stating the Rangers were very keen on seeing what some of their younger players could do, and that he thought a few defenseman might push their way into the starting lineup on October.

With July 1st rushing onto the calendar and with neither side saying much of anything, it was then speculated that maybe it was Shattenkirk who wasn’t as interested with the Rangers, and Gorton’s silence on the matter was knowing they weren’t going to land him. Needless to say, there was a lot of information flying around and none of it seemed to line up.

On the day of free agency, I speculated that might have been the plan all along. That Gorton slow-played his hand perfectly:

Is it possible the two sides have been in agreement on a contract the past week (or longer, but that’s collusion, so the past week) and he’s letting teams know he isn’t interested as he goes through the process of the pre-July 1st talking window? Is it possible that it has been the media who have taken the Rangers’ silence on the matter (since they know he’s coming) and turned it into the rumors that they’re not interested?

Or, maybe the Rangers are silent on the matter because, well, they’re always silent. The Rangers media doesn’t ever break news anymore, the team does. When news leaks about the Rangers it’s because other team’s beat writers beat the national guys to the punch. In this case, the two parties are the dead-silent Rangers and a free agent who can’t speak until July 1st. Where is the leak going to come from here?

In the end, the truth seemed to be somewhere in between. The Rangers were confident they were going to get him, and they were silent on the matter because, well, they’re always silent. Shattenkirk did mull over other options from other teams (in some cases worth far more money than the Rangers had on the table) but per Larry Brooks he came to the Rangers with the short-term, efficient contract offer they eventually signed him to.

The fact is that the 28-year-old defenseman made the Rangers an offer they ultimately could not refuse, $26.6 million over four years for a $6.65 million cap hit per. Yes, in a complete reversal of the norm, the proposal was made to the organization by the free agent even as other offers rolled into him for far more money on longer-term deals.

The backlash of the Rangers landing the big fish -- well, at having the big fish willingly jump into their net — was immediate. Fans who were begging for him moments before the news broke, then immediately laughed at his “bad contract” and that “he got a lot of money as a defenseman who can’t defend.” The level of salt is amazing.

Here’s the first thing: The contract is as amazing as you could hope for. There is not a single part of this agreement you could complain about with an unbiased mind. For starters, it’s just four years -- which means it will end when Shattenkirk turns 32. For a player who could have easily commanded a seven-year deal — and did from other teams — it’s an enormous win. The salary of $6.65-million is also well below market value. He could have easily walked away with an $8-million dollar deal and people might have laughed, but they wouldn’t have been surprised. Elite puck-moving defenseman are always at a premium.

The people telling you otherwise are fans who are upset that he didn’t sign with their team. Or, rather, they have no idea how to properly evaluate a defenseman (which seems to be a problem for NHL executives as well). See, Girardi, Dan and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Shattenkirk is an elite offensive defenseman. He is also an elite shot suppressor (probably because he doesn’t let the other team have the puck). Some stats and other odds:

Almost more importantly, Shattenkirk’s addition gives the Rangers one of the most formidable top-four corps in the league. Ryan McDonagh will assuredly be partnered with Shattenkirk, and the two of them might actually be the best pairing any team can put out. Couple that with Brady Skjei and Brendan Smith on the second pair (who dominated the playoffs, when they were allowed to play) and you have a group no one will want to mess with.

Toss in all-world potential Anthony DeAngelo, Russian addition Alexei Bereglazov (who has a KHL out clause, mind you), NCAA signing Neal Poink, and long-shot to make the NHL this year Sean Day and you have quite the options. Oh yea, there’s Nick Holden and Marc Staal, as well, but we’ll talk about them later.

Shattenkirk won’t just give the Rangers a top pair to dominate other teams and actually handle tough assignments well. He won’t just allow the Rangers to not have to make a decision on forcing Skjei into the top pair and seeing if he’ll float the entire year. He won’t just let Alain Vigneault shelter the living hell out of DeAngelo to squeeze the most out of his offense while helping fix his defense.

He’ll also help the stagnant power play and help not run McDonagh into the ground.

I’ve often been amazed at how much power play time Vigneault thrown onto McDonagh with other options in the fold. Not that McDonagh can’t handle the role, but along with his penalty killing and even strength time he was being worn down. Shattenkirk represents a true power play quarterback. Skjei has shown an ability to fill that void as well, and DeAngelo is touted to eventually take the reigns over. That’s three players who can run the ship while McDonagh gets much needed rests — or is used far less than he has been in the past. The ripple effect of Shattenkirk is felt all across the lineup — especially in a Vigneault system that thrives on the defense moving the puck out of the zone.

If Shattenkirk mirrors his power play production this year from last year (25 points) he would be the highest scoring defenseman on the man advantage for the Rangers since, you guessed it, Brian Leetch. Yeah, it’s a big deal.

Simply put: Shattenkirk has elevated the Rangers to another level. Yes, they have some issues to work out at forward, but they have gone from arguably the worst defense in the league to (if they line it up right) arguably one of the best.

Welcome home, Shatty. We’ve wanted you as much as you have wanted us.