Shortly after 5:00 PM last night, confusion reigned on Rangers Twitter. The buyout window closed (didn’t it?), then it hadn’t actually opened yet, and then a few minutes later, Brett Cyrgalis reported that the Kevin Shattenkirk era had come to an end. It was a lot, and it all seemed to happen at once.
Though nothing has been made official, Cyrgalis’ report has since been confirmed by multiple outlets. The Rangers will buy out the remainder of Kevin Shattenkirk’s contract, thus ending the defenseman’s frustrating and unlucky tenure with his hometown team. Even though I’m not Dave, I’ll use his line: as per usual, I have some thoughts.
- This move gives the Rangers the immediate cap relief that they desperately needed. It was the most direct route to clear money from the books, and likely enables them to keep Chris Kreider for this season. With this savings (roughly $5.16M), the Rangers are now about $1M under the cap. They still need to sign RFA’s Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemieux, whose contracts will likely put them back above the $81.5M limit. The Rangers will definitely need to make another move or two, but they can likely wait until the end of training camp to do so.
- However, there are two main issues with this decision, in spite of the cap relief that it provides:
- All Jeff Gorton did was kick the can down the road. Next season, $6,083,333 – over 90% of Shattenkirk’s full cap hit – will sit on the Rangers’ books. This will cause another cap crunch going into a year that the Rangers might reasonably expect to be moving into the early part of their next window of contention. Not ideal!
- This is the first move the Rangers have made this offseason that makes the team worse going into 2019-20. Yes, Shattenkirk underwhelmed in his two seasons, but he is definitely (and provably) a better defenseman than both Brendan Smith and Marc Staal. Period.
- I have no idea (and likely neither does anyone else outside the Rangers’ organization) what other options the Rangers were considering, but it’s impossible to ignore that there were other paths to cap relief. The Rangers could have bought out Ryan Strome in the first buyout window. They could have bought out Marc Staal or Brendan Smith instead. They could have pursued a trade of Strome, Vlad Namestnikov or Chris Kreider. Some of these moves would have been preferable (trading Strome and buying out of one of Staal or Smith, for example), others not so much (trading Kreider), but they were all out there.
- Another popular armchair GM idea: trading Shattenkirk and retaining up to 50% of his salary. Unfortunately, every other GM in the NHL knew the situation the Rangers were in. Why give up assets in a trade for Shattenkirk when he was likely to become a free agent with severely reduced market value anyway?
- Hot take alert: Shattenkirk will be signed rather quickly, and I’d expect a lot of angry tweets this winter when he puts together a bounce-back season, assuming he’s cast in the right role and given ample time on the power play.
- The Rangers are going to depend really heavily on some unproven players this year, huh? Good luck Adam Fox!
- Lastly and most importantly: the Rangers ability to evaluate defensemen and build a well-rounded, capable corps remains this organization’s achilles heel. They have repeatedly backed themselves into a corner through a combination of bad contracts (Redden, Staal, Girardi) and bad timing (Dan Boyle), with a bit of bad luck (Shattenkirk) sprinkled in as well. In a salary cap league, this is a killer. Don’t forget, part of the Rangers current cap situation is attributable to Dan Girardi’s contract: $3.6M of his buyout sits on the 2019-2020 salary cap.
What’s done is done. The Rangers got the short-term fix they needed, but the road ahead remains perilous. Leave your thoughts on the Shattenkirk buyout and the Rangers’ defense as a whole in the comments below.