We are down to single digits in days remaining until the NHL trade deadline on March 1, and Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong has a conundrum.
His team has been red hot since the coaching change that promoted Mike Yeo and jettisoned Ken Hitchcock. After a loss at Buffalo on Saturday, the Blues are 7-2 under Yeo.
Following Monday’s game against Florida, the Blues will take their league mandated five day “bye”, and only have two games left before the trade deadline.
Under Yeo, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk…an unrestricted free agent after the season…has eight assists in nine games and has been an even or plus performer eight times. Shattenkirk’s 42 points are the fourth most among NHL defensemen, and his eight assists since February 2, Yeo’s first game, are tied for most among defensemen.
Shattenkirk is a great Blue and a great St. Louisan. He’s one of my two or three favorite players on the current team. But, he’s going to be almost impossible to keep here.
With a productive and hot player that’s a key for a winning team that’s trying to make the playoffs, does Armstrong pull the trigger on a trade that would send Shattenkirk elsewhere? What must be weighed is, is it worth it to lose another player and get nothing back in return, versus having a more talented team for a playoff run that likely won’t last long?
Last week, The Hockey News rated Shattenkirk as the top commodity available at this year’s trade deadline.
With the way he has played and is playing this season, his value as a rental will be high, especially for a team in the east that might be able to sign him.
More important, how good can the Blues be if Shattenkirk is with them, and how much would his departure affect them? It’s hard to imagine that the Blues could be good enough to beat Chicago AND Minnesota AND San Jose or another Pacific division foe in the playoffs. The evaluation the GM must make is whether or not the Blues can make the playoffs without Shattenkirk, how much what the Blues get for him can contribute immediately, and how far they can go in the playoffs if they keep him.
I think the Blues can make the playoffs if they trade Shattenkirk, but I don’t think they are a team that can make a deep playoff run whether he’s on the roster or not. While the player likes St. Louis, reality is that he wants to be a more central figure on the team that he’s on. With Alex Pietrangelo entrenched as the Blues number one d-man, and Colton Parayko ascending to number two status, the odds are that Shattenkirk isn’t going to get any more minutes if he stays in St. Louis. And the Blues would like Pietrangelo and Parayko to combine for about 45 minutes a game. No team in the NHL is going to pay premium prices for a 15-20 minute a game power play specialist. Not that Shattenkirk IS that, but on the Blues, that’s likely what his role would be.
So, ultimately, the best move Armstrong could make is to get the best return for Shattenkirk.
If the Blues allow him to negotiate an extension with a team dealing for him, all the better, although that seems unlikely. Shattenkirk has made it this far. Why not wait until July, let a bidding war start for his services, and pick his favorite spot? If the Blues could get a productive forward back, that would be a dream scenario, but it doesn’t seem like that would be a realistic return for a rental, even a really good one.
There was thought in Canada last week that the Toronto Maple Leafs have Shattenkirk as their top target at the deadline, and that he would be willing to sign an extension with them (take that report with a grain of salt). After making a depth deal with New Jersey over the weekend, Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello said he plans to stay the course and not make a deal that would disrupt Toronto’s youth. Many observers figured they would be willing to part with rookie center William Nylander, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Big, solid left wing James Van Riemsdyk…who has a year left on his deal…has been mentioned in trade rumors all year. Would it be worth it for the Leafs, who desperately need a top four defenseman, to move JVR for Shattenkirk?
The Rangers have been tied to Shattenkirk for some time. He’s from New York and enjoys playing at Madison Square Garden. They don’t have an offensive defenseman close to what Shattenkirk is offensively. That would be an ideal spot. But the playoff battle in the eastern conference is the place to look. Florida, Boston and the Islanders are all tied for the second wild card spot (Toronto holds the first wild card in the east), and all could use an offensive defenseman. Boston’s highest scoring blue liner is Torry Krug, who has 36 points on five goals and 31 assists. The Rangers leading scorer among defensemen, Ryan McDonagh, has 33 points. Nick Leddy leads the Islanders with 31 and Keith Yandle the Panthers with 29 points.
The need is there for other teams. In the old economic rule of supply and demand, there isn’t another player similar to Shattenkirk that another team would be able to trade, and there are a lot of teams that can use his type of services. It makes sense for the Blues to make the move at the deadline, and sell Shattenkirk to the highest bidder of the auction.