For the better part of the last decade, the Tampa Bay Lightning have become a landing spot for former New York Rangers players. Whether it was through trade, buyout or free-agency, the Lightning have had no less than three former Rangers on their roster since the start of the 2014-15 season.
With the announcement that New York will be buying out defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, the Lightning have the opportunity to once again add to their quota of former Rangers. While their current roster is already tight on cap space, Tampa Bay has shown interest in Shattenkirk in the past, and every team can use a veteran defenseman with offensive upside.
The question is, should the Lightning pursue Shattenkirk? Could he be that final piece to put them over the postseason hump, or would his addition to the roster be a costly mistake for seasons to come?
The Case for Signing Shattenkirk
Sometimes the perfect offseason signing can be a matter of timing. Given where the Lightning stand right now, Shattenkirk could be the exact player that they need at the exact time that they need him.
Heading into the 2019-20 season, Tampa Bay has a major question mark on their top defensive pairing. Currently, it appears that 21-year-old Mikhail Sergachev will be given the opportunity to prove that he should be the Lightning’s number two defenseman alongside Victor Hedman.
If Sergachev struggles in this role, a veteran, right-shot defenseman like Shattenkirk would give the Lightning a second option before they go out and make a major trade for a defenseman.
At 30 years-old, Shattenkirk still has a lot of hockey left in his system. Alongside an elite defenseman like Hedman, he could rejuvenate his career while buying the Lightning a few more seasons to develop a long-term answer to their top-defensive pairing. If Tampa Bay could sign him to a low-risk contract, somewhere in the two-year, $2-3 million a year range, then he could valuable option for the franchise.
Why the Lightning Should Avoid Shattenkirk
It doesn’t take much research to understand why the Rangers decided to part ways with Shattenkirk. To put it bluntly, his play was bad in two seasons with New York.
In two seasons, he struggled with injuries and inconsistency, only starting in 119 games. In those games, he posted a middling seven goals and 51 points, all while going minus-29.
At no point did he play like a top-end defenseman in the NHL. He struggled with the puck in his own zone while contributing little in the way of scoring outside of the power play. For an offensively-focused defenseman, that is an immediate red flag.
Sure, some of these struggles can be explained by the fact that the Rangers were a bad team in his two seasons, but a truly great player finds a way to succeed even when given a less than opportune situation. Shattenkirk was being paid like an elite defenseman while in New York, but he played more like a team’s number six option.
Lightning Don’t Need Shattenkirk
While the idea of adding a veteran defenseman like Shattenkirk should be appealing to the Lightning, it just wouldn’t be a logical move for the franchise. What the team needs right now is a defensively responsible player who could fill in alongside Hedman if needed, not another power-play quarterback who struggles with their own defensive play.
Given the fact that he is a known name, Shattenkirk will likely garner a two to three-year contract from a team in need, meaning that Tampa Bay should be out of the bidding for him immediately. There is no need for the Lightning to make another mistake and give a $6 million contract to a former Rangers defenseman.
The only exception to this would be if Tampa Bay could convince Shattenkirk to take a one-year, “show-me” contract to prove that he deserves a long-term tender. If that kind of deal can’t be reached, then the Lightning should steer well clear of Shattenkirk.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.