Devils Should Consider Signing Shattenkirk

Two years ago Kevin Shattenkirk picked the New York Rangers over the New Jersey Devils in free agency. Fortunately for general manager Ray Shero and the Devils, this would later prove to be a blessing. After a myriad of injuries and a number of healthy scratches, the 30-year-old defenseman was limited to just 119 games over the past two seasons. He managed 51 points (7 goals, 44 assists), but his game never recovered from a knee injury suffered in his first training camp in New York. He finished with a minus-29 rating and his 1.4 shooting percentage last season was the worst mark of his career.

After failing to find a trade partner for Chris Kreider and handing out lucrative contracts to Artemi Panarin ($11,642,857 cap hit) and Shattenkirk’s eventual replacement Jacob Trouba ($8,000,000 cap hit), the Rangers were in cap hell and were forced to buy out the final two years of his deal.

Kevin Shattenkirk #22 of the New York Rangers
Kevin Shattenkirk, formerly of the New York Rangers. (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

With Shattenkirk now a free agent, the Devils should take a hard look at the veteran defenseman.

The Devils have already had themselves quite the offseason, upgrading their roster with the additions of P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds, and Nikita Gusev. The Devils also selected Jack Hughes with the number one overall pick back in June. Adding a healthy Shattenkirk to their busy offseason can turn the Devils into a bonafide playoff contender in the Metropolitan Division.

Shattenkirk Offers a Low-Risk Opportunity for Devils

As it stands, Shattenkirk is the top right-handed defenseman on the unrestricted free agent market, and given his previous body of work as a top-four defenseman with the St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals and Rangers, a number of teams should be interested in rolling the dice on a one or two-year deal. When healthy, Shattenkirk is capable of putting up 40-plus points per season. Even if he puts up 30-to-35 points in a lesser bottom-six role, he can bring significant value to a young team like the Devils.

A healthy Shattenkirk on a low-risk,short-term deal can also open up some options for the Devils. If he can come in and produce at a moderate level, his strong play can make a player like Sami Vatanen expandable. Vatanen is entering the final year of his contract with a $4.875 million cap hit, and perhaps Shero can flip Vatanen for prospects or second/third-round draft picks, which is certainly an area of need after the Devils traded their picks away for Subban and Gusev.

Kevin Shattenkirk - Rangers
Kevin Shattenkirk with the Rangers. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Even though it’s late in the summer and the Devils have rounded out their roster, they still have some extra cap space to cash in an on a low-risk opportunity, but with the Devils depth, it’s not necessarily a gamble they have to take.

Is There a Fit on the Devils’ Blue Line?

Aside from his lackluster performance over the past two seasons, one of the overlying issues with the Devils pursuing Shattenkirk is that he plays on the right side. The Devils are already stacked on the right side with Subban, Damon Severson, Vatanen and Connor Carrick.

Kevin Shattenkirk
Kevin Shattenkirk, formerly of the New York Rangers (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Also, Shattenkirk thrives as a set-up man on the power play, and the Devils already appear set there as well. Subban is pretty much a lock to quarter-back the Devils’ top power-play unit, with Severson, Vatanen, Will Butcher and Ty Smith (if he cracks the opening-night lineup) all vying time on the man advantage as well.

On paper, the only way Shattenkirk fits with the Devils is if they part ways with one of their defensemen or have some of them play on their off-sides, which might actually weaken their blue line if things don’t pan out.

Shero has been very fond of Shattenkirk in the past, and if he chooses to stay close to home, perhaps this all might work out. Time will tell.