Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, in the midst of a career season offensively, is poised to become one of, if not the most sought after free agent of the 2017 offseason. We ranked the Capitals blue liner #1 in our mid-season free agent power rankings in January and since moving to Washington from St. Louis at the trade deadline, the 28-year-old has only helped his cause, tallying six assists in 10 games for his new employer. Shattenkirk reportedly rebuffed overtures from three different clubs since the 2016 entry draft who were interested in acquiring the seven year veteran on the condition they could lock him up to a contract extension. With nearly every team in the league looking for skilled, puck-moving defensemen, particularly those that happen to shoot right-handed, there figures to be a robust market for Shattenkirk’s services in July.
Elliotte Friedman, appearing on Toronto’s Sportsnet 590 Friday morning (H/T to Chris Nichols of Fan Rag Sports for the transcription), speculated that one team who may go all-in on Shattenkirk this summer is the New Jersey Devils. The Devils currently rank 28th overall in the NHL in scoring and have just one blue liner, Damon Severson, who has tallied at least 20 points on the season. Clearly they could use a point-producing defender and Shattenkirk will far and away be the top free agent option. Friedman notes that New Jersey will have the cap space ($19.5MM in projected cap space with 17 players under contract for 2017-18 according to Cap Friendly) to essentially outbid any other interested suitor if they so choose.
“I don’t know if Kevin Shattenkirk is going to go there – I still think he wants to be a Ranger. But I could see them throwing a big number at him. They’ve got a lot of cap room. They’ve got a spot for him on their blueline. He’s exactly what they need. It would not surprise me in the least if New Jersey is a team that goes out there and just throws bags of money at him and says, ‘Turn us down.’”
It’s interesting to note that Friedman also believes that Shattenkirk has his sights set on joining the Rangers. The Blue Shirts were among the teams that spoke to the Blues about dealing for the blue liner at the deadline but simply had no desire to meet St. Louis’ high asking price. The thought then was that they were content waiting for the summer when they can add the skilled blue liner without sacrificing any assets to do so. However, given the Rangers heavy, long term commitments to Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, it stands to reason they will have to be creative in fitting a projected Shattenkirk contract under the salary cap. That may mean trading or buying out one of the aforementioned duo.
Elsewhere in the Metro Division:
- While the Philadelphia Flyers are a likely bet to miss the playoffs this season, the development of Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny has been a bright spot, as Sam Carchidi of Philly.com writes. Provorov, just 20, has recorded 28 points as a rookie blue liner and has shown the potential to be a top-pair defender for years to come. Konecny, meanwhile, has registered 11 goals with 16 assists and has the elusiveness and creativity the Flyers sorely lack on their roster, according to Carchidi. Flyers GM Ron Hextall wisely avoided the temptation to be a buyer at the trade deadline and instead chose to remain patient with his retooling. The continued development of Provorov and Konecny demonstrate that Hextall’s decision was the correct one.
- Carolina center Derek Ryan has taken an unusual route to becoming a NHL regular, playing professionally in both Austria and Sweden prior to joining the Hurricanes organization. Ryan, who played for current Hurricane head coach Bill peters for the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs, went undrafted and spent four seasons playing collegiate hockey at the University of Alberta before turning pro. Now the 30-year-old rookie is Carolina’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey, writes Chip Alexander of The News & Observer. Playing on a one-year, two-way contract this season, Ryan has registered 11 goals and 24 points while playing all over the Hurricanes lineup and has likely earned a raise on his $600K salary when he reaches free agency this summer. While he doesn’t qualify as a game-breaking talent, Ryan has proven he belongs in the NHL and is a solid, bottom-six contributor.