It’s been speculated for quite some time that Kevin Shattenkrik, because of his soon-to-be unrestricted free agent status, will be shopped around the league by the St. Louis Blues. Recently, Frank Seravalli confirmed that speculation by reporting on TSN that the Blues have Shattenkirk’s name floating around the trade market as they look for scoring help. While nothing appears to be imminent, there’s no doubt that a lot of teams are going to be interested in Shattenkrik’s services, even if he’s set to hit free agency in July of 2017.
Since entering the league with Colorado in 2010, Shattenkirk has been one of the league’s best in terms of defencemen producing offence. He ranks 10th in both total points and points-per-game since the beginning of the 2010-11 season with 49 goals and 147 assists over the span of 373 games. That 0.60 points-per-game figure puts him right in the same area code as Mark Giordano, Duncan Keith, P.K. Subban, and Keith Yandle for production, which is obviously some nice company to have.
Also, since he joined the Blues, Shattenkirk has been an excellent possession driver, averaging a 55.0 even strength Corsi For percentage over his career with the Blues. Of course, this could be attributed to the fact the Blues have been a really good team throughout that time, but if you look at Shattenkirk’s numbers with and without different defensive partners, he actually the one that appears to be making them better. That said, he’s also consistently given offensive zone situations, which is certainly a factor behind his strong possession stats.
Last season, Shattenkirk was having the best statistical season of his career before he had abdominal surgery and eventually missed all of February and most of March. Before getting injured, Shattenkirk had been arguably the league’s best offensive defenceman, as he ranked first in assists with 32 in 49 games, and second in points with 40. When he returned he didn’t produce at the same elite clip, but ended up finishing with a very respectable 44 points, good for 20th among defencemen. This season, he’s picked up where he left off pre-injury, posting 0.71 points-per-game, good for 10th among defencemen.
So, yeah, he’s a really good offensive defenceman. Moving along.
The Blues are an excellent team. There’s no doubt about that. They’re currently in third place in the Central Division with a 25-14-7 record, and judging by their underlying numbers, they could be doing a lot better than that. They’re seventh in the league with a 52.3 Corsi For percentage at even strength and they’re towards the very top of the league in shots for and scoring chances for per 60 minutes. Unfortunately, thanks to one of the league’s worst shooting percentages, the Blues are only producing 2.0 goals per hour, which, like I said, is way worse than they really should be doing.
Looking up and down their roster, it’s pretty easy to see that they’re having a rough time producing offence. Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Steen have been excellent, but after them, St. Louis only has one forward, David Backes, with more than 20 points. So even though they’re a strong possession team and they’ve been getting excellent goaltending, the inability to score has kept the Blues from being one of the league’s true contenders this season.
And of course, there’s also their cap situation. There’s a pretty decent chance they’re going to lose Backes this summer for nothing as he enters free agency, and if they don’t act soon, they could also be in danger of losing Shattenkirk for nothing the following year.
So with major struggles on offence, terrible luck with injuries, and the threat of free agency looming in just over a year, Shattenkirk appears to be the perfect trade option for the Blues.
Obviously it’s a weird situation when a team in win now mode decides to sell off one of its key pieces. Shattenkirk is an excellent player, so he’ll command a lot of trade interest around the league, but since he is so useful, he’s also going to be tough for the Blues to replace. Internally, Colton Parayko would need to take on a bigger role in his absence, as none of St. Louis’ other depth defencemen have shown much offensive prowess. But still, it isn’t easy to replace Shattenkirk’s production from the blue line and removing him in order to help fix a scoring problem could end up being counterproductive.
Also, the Blues will be looking for a player that help them immediately rather than draft picks and prospects as a rebuilding team would. A similar player to Shattenkirk in a similar situation was dealt from Arizona to the New York Rangers in what would be a perfect comparison if not for the fact the situations of the two teams are completely opposite. When the Coyotes dealt Yandle, they moved away an attractive asset who was a year and a half from free agency for a great haul of picks and prospects. The Blues, though, aren’t in need of that kind of package as it doesn’t help their current run.
This is really, really tricky, because pretty much everybody is in the playoff hunt right now, and if anybody is going to be paying a high price for Shattenkirk, they’re going to be doing so because, like St. Louis, they’re trying to win now. Obviously the Blues don’t want to lose Shattenkirk for nothing, but it’s important to remember that he’s still more than a year away from free agency. If nothing can come together before the trade deadline, there’s no sense in dealing him, as he’s an important part of the team’s current success.
So if this thing is going to happen, the Blues need to either find another win now team with a hole on the blue line and excess baggage up front (Tampa Bay?) that can be moved in a pure hockey trade, or they’re going to have to find a rebuilding team that believes they’re capable of getting Shattenkirk signed (Edmonton? Toronto?) that also has the assets that make a worthwhile deal right now. Obviously there are going to be a lot of teams interested in acquiring Shattenkirk, but I doubt many are going to be willing to part ways with what St. Louis will command for him.