The Tampa Bay Lightning today announced a one-year contract for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. The deal will pay him $1.75 million. Shattenkirk was scheduled to make $6.6 million with a $6.65 million cap hit this season for the New York Rangers, but was bought out due to a salary crunch after they made some trades and had a couple of players go to salary arbitration. Shattenkirk will be making $1.433 million per season for the next four seasons due to the buy out, plus a $2 million signing bonus next summer that will all be paid for by the Rangers.
Before he signed with the Rangers in 2017, the Lightning had been in on him. He ended up deciding on the Rangers because it was close to home and was a dream of his to play for his childhood team. His two years in New York didn’t quite go to plan. He only played 46 games in 2017-18, recording 23 points. He then put up 28 points in 73 games last year.
Before going to the Rangers, Shattenkirk had been a consistent 40-point scorer from the blue line from 2011-12 through 2016-17, reaching a career high of 56 points in 2016-17. The one exception being the 2012-13 lockout when he recorded 23 points in 48 games. He also had a 44 point season in 2014-15 where he only played 56 games.
Shattenkirk has averaged 20:47 TOI in his career. It’s possible he’ll be playing those kind of minutes with the Lightning, but it’s more likely he’ll be around the 16-18 minute mark much like Braydon Coburn and Dan Girardi saw their ice time drop after they came to the Lightning as older defenseman with top-four histories.
According to Evolving-Hockey’s Goals Above Replacement (GAR) and Wins Above Replacement (WAR) stats, Shattenkirk has been a below replacement level player the past two seasons. In 2017-18, he had a -2.3 EV GAR and a -1.3 Penalty GAR, but was buoyed somewhat with a 1.0 GAR on the Power Play. This equaled out to being worth -0.5 WAR while playing just over half a season.
He rebounded last season in some stats reaching 1.8 GAR at EV and 1.3 GAR from Penalties, but he regressed to -3 GAR on the Power Play and -1.0 GAR short handed. Without those negatives from his special teams play, he would have been worth closer to a half win, which is respectable enough for a third pairing defenseman.
As a contrasting point, last year, Dan Girardi had a 3.4 EV GAR, 0.1 SH GAR and 0.8 Penalty GAR which equaled out to 0.7 WAR. Braydon Coburn likewise was worth 0.7 WAR last season with most of his value coming from his even strength play.
What to expect from Shattenkirk
Shattenkirk has not played a lot of short-handed time over the past three seasons. When he was with the St. Louis Blues, he did play quite a bit averaging over 1:45 SH TOI per game in four of his seven seasons there. One constant though is that he’s been on the top power play unit for his entire career. He averaged 2:26 power play TOI per game last season and that was the lowest of his career.
Shattenkirk is unlikely to spend too much time on special teams for the Lightning. He could spell Victor Hedman or Mikhail Sergachev from time to time, but those two should be locked into their spots on the power play. However, it also wouldn’t be a big surprise to see the team send him out with the first unit from time to time to feed Steven Stamkos. Stamkos hasn’t had a right-handed defenseman manning the point on the power play to feed him one-timers since Curtis Foster. While Hedman has made it work, a right-hander can make the pass easier and without choreographing it quite as much as a left-hander.
There’s a possibility that the coaching staff could decide that they want to keep Sergachev paired up with Coburn as they did last season. That would mean pairing up Shattenkirk with Hedman. I’d like to see Sergachev get a crack at big minutes alongside Hedman to see if they can really make it click and be an offensive juggernaut at 5v5 together. But with this coaching staff, who knows? What I would like to see though is Shattenkirk paired up with Coburn and see if those two can click and be a workable third pair while the true top-four talents get the bulk of the work load on the blue line.
Another implication of this signing is that it means Luke Schenn should be headed to the AHL and the Syracuse Crunch. He’ll further strengthen the top of the blue line there and provide another good veteran presence in the locker room. It also means that Jan Rutta will slide to the 7th defenseman spot.
For those that are concerned with the salary cap implications, there really aren’t any here. After the trade of Ryan Callahan, the Lightning opened up quite a bit of salary cap space to handle signing Brayden Point and Adam Erne. Swapping out Schenn for Shattenkirk only means an extra $1.05 million on the salary cap. The Lightning have given themselves more than enough room to work with for Point’s contract and still have space for potential signing bonus payouts under this year’s cap as Julien BriseBois stated in an interview following the trade of Ryan Callahan.
For the jersey number folks out there, Shattenkirk has worn #22 for most of his NHL career after wearing #8 and #12 in his first NHL season. Erik Condra was the last Lightning player to wear #22 and with him no longer with the organization, the number should be free for Shattenkirk to continue wearing in Tampa Bay.
In all, I think this is a really smart signing. I was unsure about having Rutta as the third right side defenseman. While he showed decently well last season after coming over in a trade, his ceiling is limited. Shattenkirk should come in motivated to excel and help this team win a Stanley Cup. His best chance for one came in 2015-16 with the St. Louis Blues when they lost in the Western Conference Finals with the San Jose Sharks, the only time he has made it past the second round of the playoffs.
He’ll also be motivated to prove that he is still a capable defenseman in the NHL. He’s 30 years old and not getting any younger. While he’s going to be getting paid from his buyout over the next four years, you know that he’ll be looking to prove himself for a bigger contract when he hits free agency again next summer.