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Rewind to draft day 2016 for a moment. It was on that day that the Edmonton Oilers made a serious push for then St. Louis Blues D Kevin Shattenkirk. In desperate need of defensive help, then GM Peter Chiarelli offered star winger Taylor Hall to the Blues for the puck moving defender. The deal would have went through had Edmonton been able to get an extension with Shattenkirk, but the New York native had no interest in signing.
Fast forward a year, to July 1st, 2017. Shattenkirk took less money on the open market to sign with his hometown team, the organization he rooted for growing up, the New York Rangers. It was a dream come true for the defender, but dreams can quickly become nightmares. That is exactly what happened here, unfortunately.
Shattenkirk, just over two years after signing with New York, was bought out on Wednesday afternoon. The veteran defender is now a free agent, and is in a far worse bargaining position this time around.
He’s not the star player he was when he hit the market two years ago, in fact he is coming off of a tough season in which he was an overpaid third-pairing defender at five-on-five for a rebuilding Ranger team.
Shattenkirk will come cheap to whoever signs him. This late in the process, teams don’t have a ton of cap space and their depth charts are usually set. Shattenkirk will need to sign a one or two year ‘prove it’ deal with a club to rebuild his value. Someone is going to get a value contract here.
Can He Still Play?:
Contrary to popular belief, yes, Shattenkirk can still play. He’s still a weapon on the powerplay, has a good shot from the point and an excellent first pass. A season ago, he was used by the Rangers in a third pairing role at even strength and played on the powerplay, a role that he should excel in.
His boxcars, for the second reason in a row, took a dive. In 2016-17, split between St. Louis and Washington, Shattenkirk scored 56 points in 80 games (13-43-56). In his first season in New York, 2017-18, he managed only 23 points (5-18-23) in what was an injury riddled campaign. This past season, Shattenkirk scored only two goals, the worst mark of his professional career, en route to a 28 point season.
Although the points dried up, Shattenkirk did well in terms of possession. He posted a 50.4% Corsi For at five-on-five, essentially even. That’s a solid mark that looks even better when you look at the rebuilding Rangers as a whole. Shattenkirk’s Corsi Rel mark of 5.6% was one of the best on the team.
His Fenwick For % at five-on-five of 50.6% was also strong relative to his teammates. In this area, Shattenkirk posted a 5.8% FF% Rel. He was a strong possession player that brought puck movement and powerplay ability to the table.
His -13 sticks out in a bad way. In addition to the ugly boxcars for an offensive defender, it makes one wonder what went wrong. Bad luck could be at least partially to blame. Shattenkirk posted a 97.4 PDO, well below the average mark of 100. It stands to reason that his PDO number will improve, especially if he ends up on a better team.
All numbers via hockey-reference.
Does He Fit In Edmonton?:
I would suggest that Shattenkirk is a strong fit for the Edmonton Oilers. He’d immediately be their best offensive defender, wouldn’t break the bank and will not command term. He could be the perfect stop-gap option to hold the fort until Evan Bouchard is ready to jump to the NHL.
Although he played third pairing minutes in New York, I still believe that Shattenkirk can play a second pairing role at five-on-five and anchor a top powerplay. He’s the kind of passer that would excel with talented forwards like Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl in front of him.
Shattenkirk could be the perfect partner for Darnell Nurse, who struggles a bit to move the puck up ice and has a sloppy first pass. Their styles compliment each other quite well, and I think they could form a successful pairing behind Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson.
Why Is The Fit Unlikely?:
Shattenkirk, a native of New York who went to college in Boston, prefers to play in the United States. More specifically and importantly, he prefers to play on the east coast. The Oilers do not check either of those two boxes.
Edmonton also has a logjam defensively, with Klefbom, Larsson, Nurse, Kris Russell and Matt Benning all returning to the NHL roster. Caleb Jones, Joel Persson, Ethan Bear, Bouchard and William Lagesson are also closing in on an NHL job and are likely to push in camp.
Edmonton would need to make a trade to accommodate Shattenkirk, which seems unlikely at this time.
Shattenkirk and the Oilers make a lot of sense for each other, but the fit isn’t likely. I suspect Shattenkirk settles in with a team like the New York Islanders or New Jersey Devils, who both need help and allow the defender to stay near his family and friends.