When the Rangers signed Kevin Shattenkirk to a team friendly four year deal before the beginning of last season, he was supposed to be the missing link in a team that desperately needed a blue line upgrade. Instead, Shatty played most of the year with a torn MCL while almost willing the Rangers to be competitive. He managed a line of 5-18-23 despite the injury and being shut down after 46 games. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t the season the fans, team, or player had hoped for.
The rebuild was announced, and Shattenkirk remained. He’s one of the few elite puck movers in the game, and with Tony DeAngelo and Neal Pionk set to make the club, his expertise in the area would certainly help. However this year has not gone as planned for Shattenkirk. He’s been off of PP1 for quite some time now, and his stat line is showing it. He’s at 1-7-8 in 27 games, a product of inconsistent play and lack of powerplay time.
Compounding issues is that Shattenkirk has been sneaky bad for a while now. His season-long numbers are being held up by a few very strong games. Overall, he’s been a sub-50% possession and xG player for over half the season. While most of this can be attributed to the team –they are all bad in these departments– there is player blame. It’s not a black-and-white analysis.
So with the Rangers seemingly heading towards the cellar, as expected, and Shattenkirk with two more years at $6.65 million remaining, the club and player are at a bit of a crossroads. The easy answer is trade him, retain salary, and get a decent haul for him. He’s still Kevin Shattenkirk, and he still commands a decent amount on the trade market (a 1st and a decent prospect is a starting point). However it’s not just that simple.
First things first: Shatty has a limited no-trade clause (10 teams he cannot be traded to). Let’s assume that eliminates ten of the other non-playoff teams, so while it complicates things, it’s not a huge deal. Worth noting he has a no-move clause, but that’s for demotions to the AHL and the expansion draft.
The next issue is salary. If the Rangers move him, they will probably need to eat some salary for the next two seasons. Add in the Ryan Spooner trade, and the Rangers are only able to eat salary on one more trade through this year and next. Context matters, and the right deal is the right deal, but it would put a limit on trade flexibility.
Then there’s the issue of roster construction. If the Rangers trade Shatty, then it’s safe to assume Fredrik Claesson gets more time, while Adam McQuaid fills in as the 7D. If the Rangers are able to move McQuaid and/or Brendan Smith (not bloody likely), then we are looking at John Gilmour and Rob O’Gara. Brady Skjei then gets thrust into an elder statesman role, something that may be a lot for the struggling defenseman to handle right now. Plus, there’s always the Marc Staal conundrum.
The concerns about filling out the blue line expand to next season. Will Ryan Lindgren or Libor Hajek be ready? They have a combined five assists this season with Hartford. Neither are going to be offensive dynamos, but you like to see dominating performances at the AHL before a call up, and they haven’t delivered that yet. It’s not a bad thing, as they are both just 25 games into their pro careers, but rushing them isn’t going to help either.
Players like Shattenkirk, Staal, and Smith are a necessity because they fill out the roster and allow the kids to grow. The four of them would probably like to win, but I’m assuming making millions of dollars helps that out a bit. Of the trio, Shatty is the most movable, but at what cost to development? Sometimes the right deal is not making a deal.
That said, I wonder if there’s a deal to be made here with Toronto. They are in win-now mode and need help on the right side of their blue line. Pure speculation at this point, but it makes you wonder.