The biggest free agent prize of the 2017 offseason is defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. A top pairing defenseman on most teams, Shattenkirk isn’t an elite defenseman, but he is a steady puck mover who is great on the powerplay and racks up points regularly. He’s clearly the best player available this year in free agency, and is likely headed to a big time contract.
But the question for most Rangers fans is going to be what that contract looks like. With the salary cap ceiling headed to $75 million, the Dan Girardi buyout, and the Kevin Klein retirement, the Rangers all of a sudden have a ton of cap space to work with. Believe it or not, they actually have the cap space to land Shattenkirk and re-sign their key RFAs if they so desire.
The bigger question is whether Shattenkirk fills the big need for the Rangers, which is a true top pairing defenseman for Ryan McDonagh. Here’s how Shattenkirk compares to the average top pairing defenseman in the league. While we all know Shattenkirk is a great offensive driver, an under appreciated aspect of his game is his shot suppression ability. He’s actually well above the average top pairing defenseman, which I have to admit was a surprise to me.
Now it is fair to say that the above doesn’t take quality of competition faced or deployment into effect. It’s also fair to say that Shattenkirk didn’t really have a strong playoffs with the Caps. These are all fair assessments, and any long term deal that Shattenkirk will certainly get comes with a good amount of risk.
However let’s take a step back. The Shattenkirk teams are getting isn’t an over 30 Shattenkirk. He’s 28 years old, 29 in January, and his play style doesn’t age as some of the lesser skaters that rely on shot blocking. Shattenkirk relies on skating, denying zone entries, positioning, and controlling the play. That’s not to say he will last through his eight year deal and be worth every penny, it’s that he likely (hopefully?) won’t break down and make the Rangers, or any other signing team, regret the contract immediately.
When it comes to the actual contract, the common ground seems to be at least six years and at least $6 million. That’s a fair starting ground, and as a coveted free agent that plays a position that is in high demand, it’s extremely likely he gets more. There aren’t many comparable contracts to Shattenkirk, as the only 28 year old right-handed UFA defensemen to hit the market and get big contracts are Jason Demers and Anton Stralman. Neither are in the scoring category of Shattenkirk.
I think six years and $6.5 million is the best starting point for a Shattenkirk. Which, for a team like the Rangers, could be front-loaded in anticipation of a 2020 lockout/amnesty buyout period. I know it stinks to talk about that, but in Gary Bettman’s NHL, it’s something that honestly can’t be ignored.
Personally, $6.5 million is the highest I’d go, knowing that if the Rangers go the Shattenkirk route, then Brendan Smith is not re-signing without another major trade. Signing Shattenkirk is a little like getting a pair of signings. You get Shatty, but you also free McDonagh and pair him with someone who can finally skate. The potential there is endless. But that is also a steep price and a risky contract. The expensive ones are never risk-free, unfortunately."So what does a Kevin Shattenkirk contract look like?",