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Shattenkirk Signing Is a Worthy Bet

August 6, 2019, 8:02 AM ET [7 Comments]
Sam Hitchcock
Tampa Bay Lightning Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Lightning began Monday morning weak on the right side of their defensive group. Besides Erik Cernak, Tampa Bay’s right-handed defensemen are substandard for a Cup contender. Things are so desperate that Mikhail Sergachev, hardly Mr. Reliable and also not a righty, plays the off side as a companion to his left-handed partner. Enter Kevin Shattenkirk.

By signing Shattenkirk to a one-year contract for $1.75M, the Lightning are paying third-pair money for a defenseman who has been capable of notching more than ten goals in consecutive seasons, and that was as recently as the 2015-16, 16-17 seasons. Shattenkirk has been afflicted with injuries, and he also fell out of favor in New York, resulting in his buy out. But at a price and term this modest, his acquisition is a clear win. After all, the alternatives – Jan Rutta and Luke Schenn – are grim.

Tampa Bay weighed in on why they like this fit. GM Julien BriseBois’s remarked, “After a full summer of training when he’s healthy and he feels confident in his leg, we expect him to be a strong contributor for our team this coming season.” Evidently, BriseBois thinks Shattenkirk’s knee injury may have limited his mobility and sapped his efficacy on both ends last year. (Shattenkirk also separated his shoulder last season.) But if Shattenkirk can stay healthy – and that is a big if – he could add important shooting and playmaking from the back end.

While Shattenkirk suffered from a disappointing year, there are indications that he did help the Rangers when he was on the ice. At 5v5, he finished with the best Corsi Plus-Minus of any defenseman on the team with over 100 minutes, and he trailed only Brady Skjei in Scoring Chances. Granted, Shattenkirk played very sheltered minutes with New York, but coach Jon Cooper will give the tough minutes to Cernak and Ryan McDonagh anyway. What will be important is that Shattenkirk hammers the puck on net – he finished behind only Skjei in 5v5 shots on goal among defensemen – and that he distributes the puck effectively. Shattenkirk was hardly a prolific passer, but his 16 assists at 5v5 led the Rangers defensemen. (His primary assists tied for first among defensemen.) The Lightning are getting Shattenkirk when his value is lowest, but even on a bottom-feeding New York squad, he chipped in scoring.

Shattenkirk doesn’t need to fix the right side of the Lightning defense. What he needs to do is move things forward. He should be an upgrade on Rutta, who has zero ability offensively and limited mobility. Come playoff time that is a problem. But if Shattenkirk can boost scoring when he’s on the ice, then even with his warts in his own zone, the Lightning will be pleased.

With the Lightning expected to be among the Eastern Conference’s best, they can take things slow with Shattenkirk to rebuild his confidence. Give him time with Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, allow him to command the second unit of the power play, give him the latitude to be aggressive. At 30, Shattenkirk should have a few more good seasons left.

The Lightning are making a low risk, high upside investment in Shattenkirk. They have the speed and passing to harness his ability, especially as a shooter. And if it does not work out, if Shattenkirk is too debilitated to still be a contributor in the NHL, it will have been a worthy gamble.
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