Once again St. Louis Blues’ All-Star defenseman and American Olympian Kevin Shattenkirk’s name has popped up in trade rumors. Last summer, multiple reports linked the 26-year-old d-man to a number of teams, most prominently the Edmonton Oilers. Obviously, Shattenkirk wasn’t traded and he remained in St. Louis, where he continues to rack up points at an impressive rate. This season he is currently 15th in defense scoring in the league, despite missing ten games due to injury. His excellent production combined with a reasonable contract that carries a cap hit of $4.25 million through 2016-2017 and lacks a no-trade clause has made Shattenkirk St. Louis’s most desirable trade chip. His status as a bonafide top pairing defenseman also makes him an excellent fit for the Ottawa Senators and if he truly is available, Ottawa should give St. Louis whatever they ask for – so long as its isn’t Erik Karlsson – to land Shattenkirk.
Why Would St. Louis Trade Kevin Shattenkirk?
With a reasonable cap hit, elite level production and international experience, why would The Blues even consider dealing Shattenkirk? The short answer is scoring, or rather, The Blues’ lack of scoring. While Vladimir Tarasenko is an elite level forward scoring at a point per game rate and Alex Steen has also demonstrated his ability to create offense, after those two St. Louis severely lacks offensive depth. Furthermore, trading T.J. Oshie for Troy Brower last summer has only exacerbated the problem, with Brower only managing 16 points so far this season. St. Louis is so offensively challenged that Shattenkirk’s 25 points rank him third in team scoring, ahead of their number one center David Backes. When combined with St. Louis’ repeatedly inability to score goals in the playoffs – only 58 goals in 27 games since 2012 – trading Shattenkirk for scoring makes sense. Especially with Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester and promising rookie Colton Parayko on their roster, The Blue have depth on defense and can afford to give up a quality asset to get the scoring forward they so desperately need.
Why Ottawa Needs Kevin Shattenkirk
The Ottawa Senators desperately need help on the blue line. Of Ottawa defenders to have played over 20 games this year, only two, Erik Karlsson and Patrick Wiercioch (by 0.05), are positive possession players. Every other Ottawa defenseman is getting caved in possession wise. Even excluding Jared Cowen from consideration doesn’t help, as both Cody Ceci and Mark Borowiecki are at 43% SAT, which ranks them almost dead last in the league. Additionally, Ottawa desperately needs more offense from its back-end, which seems weird to say from a team with Erik Karlsson on it, but after Karlsson and his 45 points, the next highest scoring defender is Cody Ceci with 8 points. Essentially, when Karlsson isn’t on the ice, Ottawa receives zero offensive help from its defensemen.
Shattenkirk fixes both of these problems as we can see below in his HERO Chart:
Despite playing second pairing minutes, including a season-low 17:37 against Colorado last week, Shattenkirk produces offense and posts possession numbers necessary from a top pairing player. While his offensive ability is what stands out most about his game, Shattenkirk is also defensively sound and can play in all situations. For example, this season he has averaged 90 seconds a game on the penalty kill for St. Louis. Additionally, his 55% SAT is 4% better than any other Ottawa defenseman, including Erik Karlsson. That means that Shattenkirk has the puck a lot and, as shot suppression data shows, the best way to prevent opponents from shooting on you is to not let them have the puck. Given that Ottawa is giving up more shots than any other team, they desperately need a defender of Shattenkirk’s caliber.
Who Does Ottawa Give Up?
Ottawa should offer Mike Hoffman straight up for Kevin Shattenkirk. While it would be ideal if some combination of Shane Prince, Curtis Lazar, Cody Ceci and draft picks was enough, it almost certainly will not be. Hoffman is desirable because, as I demonstrated earlier this week, Hoffman is an elite scoring winger, which is exactly what St. Louis needs. In the same way that Shattenkirk fills a need for Ottawa, Hoffman, who is the same age, fills a niche for St. Louis. While Ottawa would certainly miss Hoffman’s goal scoring prowess, they have enough forward depth with Milan Michalek returning from injury, Clarke MacArthur skating again, and Shane Prince producing offense on the fourth line to mitigate the loss
More importantly, if Ottawa does not upgrade their blue line via trade it is unclear how they will improve it. If Ottawa is looking at internal player development, the prospects are not great. Cody Ceci is struggling mightily and while he still may develop into a top-4 NHL level defender, it won’t be for the next few years. Similarly, top prospect Thomas Chabot is two or more years away from being a high impact player. While scouts are high on Andreas Englund, he has yet to play in North America. Alternatively, the crop of unrestricted free agents for 2016 is rather limited, with Dustin Byfuglien, Alex Goligoski, and Dan Hamhuis as the only impact defensemen possibly available, assuming they even reach UFA status.
Ottawa needs to trade for Kevin Shattenkirk now. He is not slated to become a free agent until 2017 giving Ottawa almost 18 months to negotiate a contract extension with him. In the meantime, he earns a very reasonable $4.25 million. It will also allow Ottawa to ice two elite level defensive pairings with Karlsson and partner – most likely Fredrik Claesson given his strong play so far – and then Shattenkirk and one of Methot or Wiercioche, allowing Dave Cameron to either bench Borowiecki or send Ceci down to Binghamton to work on his game. Either way, Ottawa is a stronger team that will give up fewer shots, have a more balanced offensive attack and give their young defenders a chance to develop.