On Wednesday, the St. Louis Blues agreed to terms with defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. Reportedly, the deal will pay Shattenkirk $17 million over four years, generating a $4.25 million cap-hit each season.
Shattenkirk was acquired in February 2011 along with teammate Chris Stewart in the infamous Erik Johnson trade.
Since that time, Shattenkirk has become one of the most reliable defensemen in the NHL. He posted two 40-point campaigns in his first two seasons in the league and followed that up with 23 points in 48 games in 2013. In a full 82-game season, Shattenkirk was on pace to put up 39 points.
With Shattenkirk, the Blues’ defense includes the likes of Roman Polak, Ian Cole, Jay Bouwmeester and Barret Jackman. The average age of this core of players is 27 – a number highly considered to be most players’ “prime” of their careers.
Alex Pietrangelo, 23, and Kris Russell 26, are still restricted free-agents (RFAs), while Jordan Leopold, 32, is the team’s lone unrestricted free-agent (UFA) defenseman.
The youth movement has worked in St. Louis, as the Blues finished 2013 with 24.2 shots-against-per-game (ranked second in the NHL). They were also tied for seventh in goals-against-per-game (2.38) and were seventh in penalty-kill percentage (84.7%).
This was one season after the team finished first in the league in shots-against-per-game (26.7) and first in goals-against-per-game (1.89) in 2011-12.
Looking into the future, the Blues will see Bouwmeester become a UFA next summer. After the 2014-15 season, Barret Jackman becomes a UFA and Cole becomes an RFA.
After being dismissed in the playoffs by the Los Angeles Kings in May, the Blues’ focus quickly turned to re-signing Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo. Since Shattenkirk has now locked up, the attention has all been placed on Pietrangelo.
The Blues are about $15 million under the $64.3 million salary cap set for next season with Pietrangelo set to earn a large raise (he is at the end of his entry-level deal).
When discussing RFA negotiations, Blues GM Doug Armstrong said that he doesn’t “see one affecting the other.”
Shattenkirk’s $4.25 million per year will likely have an impact on Pietrangelo’s negotiations, though. Pietrangelo has been the Blues’ ice-time leader for the past three seasons and has long been the front-runner in playing against opposing teams’ top lines. Although Shattenkirk is a close #2 on the depth chart, Pietrangelo is likely seeking money that would make him the second highest paid defenseman on the team (behind Bouwmeester’s $6.68 million next season).
One thing is for sure, though: Pietrangelo will be joining Shattenkirk on the Blues’ back-end next season.
“We’re going to want it the way we think is proper for the St. Louis Blues,” Armstrong said back on July 10. “If there’s an offer sheet there, we’re very content with where we are with the NHL salary cap, we’re going to be able to match any offer and we will. These are core players that we’re not going to let go.”
Along with Pietrangelo and Russell, the Blues still have forward Chris Stewart and goaltender Jake Allen listed as RFAs for the summer.