Kevin Shattenkirk free agency: Best options

Ever since the end of the Stanley Cup Final, the NHL offseason hasn’t slept. The expansion draft built the Vegas Golden Knights while New Jersey and Philadelphia selected Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick, respectively. One of the top free agents expected to hit the market, T.J. Oshie, heads back to the Capitals on an eight-year deal.

With Oshie settled in the Capitol, the best all-around player available is former Caps defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. The seven-year veteran is the most talented offensive blue liner.

This season, he finished with 56 points, trailing Norris finalists Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and Victor Hedman. He’s notched 27 goals the past two seasons with both St. Louis and Washington. Defensively, he’s a solid skate who can move the puck from zone to zone.

Where he has the most value is on special teams. His eight power play goals and 27 points were second-most for a defenseman this season. His shot percentage has improved each season since 2013-14. He can lead the attack on the man advantage.

While his plus-minus isn’t pretty to look at the past two seasons, it improved on a stable Capitals blue line. Teams will keep that and the price he will garner in mind when signing him. What teams are in the running for him?

The Favorites

Boston Bruins – Kevin Shattenkirk has been linked to Boston for a few years. He played college hockey at Boston University after growing up in Greenwich, Connecticut. Boston inquired about him at the trade deadline, but the Blues reportedly wanted two first-round picks and David Pastrnak, which was way too high.

The Bruins have a young core of defensemen with Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. Torey Krug does well on the power play, but he was the main quarterback on special teams. McAvoy had two assists on the power play in the playoffs, but he may need more time.

With Shattenkirk, Boston gets a proven asset that makes their blue line fast and deadly on offense. Its roughly $13.5 million in cap space means they can afford him if he stays around the $6-$7 million AAV range. He provides that leadership for a young core. General Manager Don Sweeney has to think about if Shattenkirk’s offense is enough of an upgrade without breaking the bank.

Kevin Shattenkirk free agency

Shattenkirk (left, playing with Blues) could join the Rangers in free agency. Photo courtesy of Newsday/Photo by Mary Altaffer, AP

New York Rangers – On paper, the Rangers and Shattenkirk is a perfect marriage. New York now has $20 million in cap space after buying out Dan Girardi and trading Antti Raanta and Derek Stepan. Rumor has it Shattenkirk favors the Rangers for its location close to home.

On the ice, he fills a dire need for the Blueshirts. Girardi, while a gritty player, is not the same puck mover as Kevin Shattenkirk. On the power play, their special teams were 3-for-39 in the postseason after a top 10 finish in the regular season. Shattenkirk can replace Brady Skjei on the second unit, giving them a Ryan McDonagh-Shattenkirk combo on the man advantage.

Despite the recent trade for Anthony DeAngelo, New York still needs help on defense. Brendan Smith is still in play for New York, and they can still sign both. He checks every box on both sides. Even if the Rangers may look to get younger and cheaper after shedding Stepan’s contract, Shattenkirk can still make them competitive and fill multiple needs.

Dark Horses

Tampa Bay Lightning – Tampa’s interest in Kevin Shattenkirk is one of the worst-kept secrets in the NHL. In January, the Lightning tried to trade for the blue liner from St. Louis. It did not come to fruition. Now, the Tampa Bay Times reported GM Steve Yzerman is kicking the tires on Shattenkirk.

Even after snagging Montreal’s pristine defensive prospect, Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa is looking for top-four defensive help. Shattenkirk joining Hedman gives the Lightning one of the best combos in the league. His offense and his right-handed stick, according to Times’ writer Joe Smith, is a fit for Tampa Bay.

Ultimately, Shattenkirk’s willingness to come to Tampa Bay is the biggest obstacle. He rejected a seven-year, $42 million extension and a deal to head to the Sunshine State. Does he want to be there? Are the Lightning built to succeed in the next few years? With Shattenkirk, they can, but it’s hard to see unless they gain more pieces.

Kevin Shattenkirk free agency

Shattenkirk (left) could become teammates with Miles Wood next season. Photo courtesy of My NHL Trade Rumors/Photo by USATSI

New Jersey Devils – Any Rangers fan might have a tough time reading this, but it has some traction to it. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported in March he wouldn’t be surprised if the Devils threw money at him.

New Jersey has $24 million free in cap space, so their offer could blow almost every other team out of the water. They have five total defensemen and a restricted free agent on their roster at the moment. Andy Greene and Damon Severson were their best defenders, and they were -16 and -31 for a weak team last season.

Basically, Kevin Shattenkirk becomes their best blue liner if he signs. New Jersey should make him their biggest priority. An offense with Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri and now Nico Hischier is impressive, while Cory Schneider is strong in net. However, he needs help badly in front of him. Shattenkirk helps them out, and they have room to look at other names such as Cody Franson or Karl Alzner.

Other Possible Destinations

Buffalo SabresTSN’s Darren Dreger reported last week of the Sabres’ interest. Like the Devils, they have a vast amount of cap space. They have a nice defensive core already in Rasmus Ristolainen and Zach Bogosian. Buffalo is very young, so Shattenkirk would have to be patient with them.

Montreal Canadiens – No surpise here, but Montreal needs to shore up their defense. They have space with $21 million, but there hasn’t been a lot of mutual interest. Plus, if they deal Alex Galchenyuk and lose Alexander Radulov, they may need to prioritize finding some forward help.

 

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The Incredible Career of Zack Kassian

Alright, incredible is quite the exaggeration. But say what you will, Zack Kassian is playing incredibly right now.

After the San Jose Sharks took a 1-0 series lead, Kassian has found himself Edmonton’s series savior. Potting two game winning goals in as many contests. Edmonton now leads the series 2-1.

And Kassian’s career couldn’t have turned around at a better time for the Edmonton Oilers.

FROM BUFFALLO TO EDMONTON

Drafted in the first round, 13th overall, by the Buffalo Sabres, Zack Kassian enjoyed a productive – if also turbulent – junior career. He won the Memorial Cup with the Windsor Spitfires in 2010 but his personal problems sometimes over shadowed his career potential.

Attitude, alcohol and drug problems plagued Kassian.

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Photo Credit: NHL.com.

These issues followed him to the big leagues, too. His career in Buffalo was cut short when he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks. But Kassian failed to shine on John Tortorella.

On July 1, 2015, in one of the saddest trades in recent memory, the Canucks traded

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Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw, Getty Images.

Kassian and a 5th Round Pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft to the Montreal Canadiens who sent an aged Brandon Prust back in return.

Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin was willing to give Kassian one last shot at the NHL. But Kassian’s now notorious pre-season car crash, followed by a stint in rehab, effectively ended any hope of the former first-rounder making a comeback.

In December of 2015 he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers for goaltender Ben Scrivens.

ZACH KASSIAN – THE EDMONTON OILER

Perhaps it was the publicity of it all. Perhaps the partying had finally gotten old. Perhaps he just needed to be in the right place, at the right time. And perhaps Edmonton is that right place, and that time is now. Maybe it’s just something in the air in Edmonton. Whatever it is, it’s working.

Kassian has been playing like the young, fast, power forward Buffalo drafted 13th overall all those years ago.

Zack Kassian’s size and grit have been a welcomed addition to the Edmonton lineup. Complimentary to the other big bodies in the lineup like Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Patrick Maroon and Milan Lucic, just to name a few.

In tight, Kassian is once again showing his skills. Pretty plays and quick hands have scored Edmonton’s last two game winning goals. For a big man, he is deceivingly fast as well. Those jets are a big reason the Oilers are up in the series.

Whether it’s the twilight of his career or just a renaissance, the Edmonton Oilers owe it all to Kassian’s play as of late.

And though the road has been a rocky one, Kassian owes it all to the Oilers as well.

The Edmonton Oilers and the San Jose Sharks play Game 4 tonight at 10:00pm Eastern; 7:00pm Pacific Time.

Edmonton leads the series 2-1.

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Three Contenders in Need of a Deadline Deal

Each season’s NHL trade deadline brings its own je ne sais quoi; its own certain something. And this year has been no different.

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Photo credit: Jillian Wagner, Hockey Fan Land.

Deadline trends this year have been dictated, and complicated, by an extremely tight Eastern Conference and an unpredictable wild card race on both coasts. Coupled with the high volume of quality pending free agents, high asking prices,

and an impending expansion draft, this season’s deadline has been a roller coaster already.

In earnest, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Carolina Hurricanes kicked things off last Thursday but it’s been the last 48 hours that general managers have really begun to make moves. Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings; Martin Hanzal to the Minnesota Wild; Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs; Alex Burrows to the Ottawa Senators; Kevin Shattenkirk to the Washington Capitals; many of the League’s top pending free agents have already been dealt.

But there are still a lot of big names out there, and more than one contender who needs to bulk up their roster before the big show.

So welcome to the hot stove, pull up a seat, from our Haus to yours this is The Game Haus’ Contenders in Need of a Deadline Deal.

NEW YORK RANGERS

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Photo credit: Jared Silber, Getty Images.

The New York Rangers have been awfully quiet thus far but don’t mistake their patience for disinterest. The Rangers boast over $10-million-dollars in deadline cap space, a number of draft picks, and plenty of young talent to attract potential trade partners.

The Rangers have been rumored to be looking at Brendan Smith. The Detroit Red Wing would add grit and bringing depth on the left side of the lineup.

The Rangers were also rumored to have been in the market for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. But, in what can only be described as a cruel twist of fate, the Washington Capitals appear to have acquired the coveted young defensman first. If all goes well for Alex Ovechkin and the President’s Trophy front runners, Shattenkirk will suit up tonight in New York against the Rangers.

Regardless, expect the Rangers to make a move or two before the deadline in order to improve their playoff chances.

MONTREAL CANADIENS

As if not to be outdone by his offseason wheelin’ and dealin’, Montreal Canadiens’ general manager Marc Bergevin went ahead and brought Claude Julien back to the Bell Centre. Though this move has the potential to overshadow any other made by Bergevin this season it’s not likely to be his last.

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Photo Credit: NHL.com.

The Canadiens were in talks to acquire Martin Hanzal, but Arizona Coyotes’ general manager John Chayka chose to deal with Minnesota instead. In need of a defenseman to help Montreal’s big blue liners with the big minutes they’ve been carrying, Bergevin swapped Greg Pateryn and a fourth for Dallas Stars defenseman Jordie Benn.

Still, the Habs will need more than just a new coach and another mediocre defenseman if they have any hopes of advancing very far in the playoffs. Montreal desperately needs depth down the middle.

Despite the fact that Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic has been very hard on his price point for star center Matt Duchene, the rumors around his being dealt have not slowed down. If Duchene’s price remains too high perhaps Bergevin might consider looking elsewhere for a new forward as the March 1 deadline fast approaches.

The Tampa Bay Lighting are flush with forwards pending restricted free agency. While teams like Detroit and Arizona posses similarly attractive assets.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

The defending Stanley Cup Champions have zero projected cap space, so they are looking strictly for a rental player only. That is, of course, unless they can unload a contract or two in the process.

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Though he has a no trade clause in place, Marc-Andre Fleury represents roughly $6-million-dollars of cap space. Cap space which the Pittsburgh Penguins could otherwise use to their advantage. Though Penguins’ general manager Jim Rutherford has expressed his wish to keep Fleury and Matt Murray both, Fleury has recently voiced that he would rather be playing; opening the door for speculation once again.

But that’s the least of Rutherford’s worries at the moment.

What Pittsburgh lacks is a healthy defense. With Pittsburgh’s cap in mind, there are plenty of less expensive options on the open market. And Buffalo, Detroit, Philadelphia, and of course St. Louis, have a wide range of pending free agent defensemen for sale.

In addition to Pittsburgh’s defensive woes, the Penguins have experienced injury issues all year on the front end as well. That being said, don’t be surprised if Rutherford adds some depth to the bottom six.

 

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*all Salary Cap information courtesy of CapFriendly.com

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What’s Wrong with the Red Wings?

It would appear that the glory days of the Detroit Red Wings are behind them. The Red Wings now sit seventh in the Atlantic Division, a full seven spots out of the last Wild Card position. They are also 26th in the league in points.

The 2016-17 season has not been kind to this Motor City team. The franchise has managed to scrape together an atrocious 16-17-5 record, posting a worrying 4-6-2 in the month of December. The new year hasn’t been much kinder as they’ve gone 0-1-1 so far.

On January 1 at the Centennial Classic, the Wings lost in spectacular fashion outdoors in overtime to the Toronto Maples Leafs. On January 3, they dropped a 2-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center.

In short, the Detroit Red Wings have grown stagnant. What’s wrong with the Red Wings?

No Datsyuk

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Photo credit: Graig Abel, Getty Images.

In June of 2016, Pavel Datsyuk announced that he was leaving the NHL to play in Russia; reportedly to be closer to his family. With a year left on his contract, the Red Wings managed to trade away the Russian center’s NHL rights to the Arizona Coyotes in return for a few picks and prospect Joe Vitale. Then quietly, Datsyuk returned to Russia in the offseason and now plays for SKA Saint Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).

In this post-Datsyuk era, the Detroit Red Wings are among the league’s worst at putting pucks in the back of the net. They are currently 27th in goals for. Not surprisingly, their power play is lacking as well. Operating at an abysmal 11.5 percent, the Wings are 30th in the league when it comes to the man advantage.

Without “The Magic Man” Pavel Datsyuk, general manager Ken Holland was forced to look outside the organization to fill the void. Holland made waves when he signed high profile unrestricted free agents Thomas Vanek, Frans Nielsen, and Steve Ott.

The New Guys

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Photo credit: Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports.

Thomas Vanek, for the most part, has surpassed expectations. Vanek signed a one-year contract worth $2.6 million with the Wings this season. After a lack-luster couple of years in Minnesota, the veteran left winger made an immediate impact with his new club. The honeymoon was cut short after a lower-body injury suffered in October sidelined the 32-year-old winger for most of November. In 27 games played, Vanek has managed to tally seven goals and 14 assists.

 

 

 

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When Holland landed Frans Nielsen this offseason in a blockbuster six-year $31.5 million deal, the hearts of New York Islanders fans everywhere were broken. The veteran center was acquired in a highly publicized free agent signing which saw Nielsen leave New York, whom he had played the last 10 years with. In 38 games with the Detroit Red Wings, Nielsen has put up eight goals and 11 assists. Coupled with a minus-16 rating, things are not looking good for the newly acquired Dane who is under contract through the 2021-22 season.

 

 

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Photo credit: Mike Carlson, Getty Images.

 

There’s not much to say about the 34-year-old NHL journeyman Steve Ott. His 14-year career has included stints with the Dallas Stars, Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues, and now the Detroit Red Wings. Ott signed a one-year deal worth $800,000 with the Red Wings this offseason. For the most part, Ott has done what he was signed to do. He is a gritty, in-your-face, character player who is known to get under the skin of his opponents. He’s racked up 56 penalty minutes in 34 games this season, notching two goals and two assists in the process.

With what ultimately amounts to a group of underwhelming offseason additions, and the steady decline of the Detroit Red Wings, Holland has come under an increasing amount of scrutiny and criticism.

Management

Holland has been with the Red Wings for a long time.

He has been the general manager since 1998. Before that he worked various roles including director of amateur scouting and assistant general manager. He has won four Stanley Cups with the team (1997, 1998, 2002, and 2008), but has failed to build a team capable of taking home the cup for a long time now.

The problem with Holland, as far as the fans are concerned, is that he lacks the ability to make big trades and sign high-profile players. That is not necessarily true, but this perception still prevails. It is unlikely for Holland to change that perception this year. The Detroit Red Wings have no available cap space and will need to unload some considerable salaries in order to add any new pieces to his team.

For Holland and the Red Wings, not making those big trades or signing the high-profile players hasn’t really been an issue until relatively recently. By and large, Detroit’s talent has been primarily home-grown. The Grand Rapid Griffins, Detroit’s farm team, have produced a wealth of talent over the years.

Consider the 2015-16 season a test run for this year’s campaign. Head coach Mike Babcock had moved on to Toronto and a slew of injuries found the Red Wings with a bench full of Griffins. Jeff Blashill, former Grand Rapid Griffins Head Coach, took the reins and coached the Wings to their 24th consecutive playoff appearance.

Has the well run dry? The young guns have cooled off considerably.

The Young Guns

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After an incredible rookie campaign, Dylan Larkin’s sophomore season is anything but. Larkin saw great success centering the team’s top line last year. Now Larkin finds himself centering the third line alongside Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening. Larkin has managed a respectable 11 goals and four assists so far this campaign. The trio combined have a team worst minus-33 rating.

The 2016-17 season has finally provided Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou their opportunity to shine. Each of these young forwards have exhibited moments of true talent. But with 21 points between the two of them, their impact on the scoreboard has been negligible at best.

The Red Wings guns have struggled on the blue line too.

A Deteriorating Defensive Core

Since injuries have sidelined Detroit’s top blue liners, Coach Blashill has been forced to rely on a young and inexperienced defensive core. Mike Green and Niklas Kronwall are ailing from an upper body and knee injury. The torch has been passed rather ingloriously to Detroit’s next generation of defensemen.

With an average age of 25, you would be hard pressed to find a less seasoned defensive core anywhere in the league. To put it lightly, the Red Wings’ blue line needs some work.

Guys Who Need to Step Up

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Photo credit: Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press.

Obviously there are a lot of moving pieces here. Guys are brought up, sent back down, get injured, and sometimes just have off days.

As elite as Henrik Zetterberg might be, he can’t carry the whole team. There needs to be some consistency from the team’s core players, or the character guys. One of them is Gustav Nyquist.

Nyquist’s production has significantly decreased since his breakout 2014-15 season. That year he potted 27 goals, 27 assists, and 54 points. After signing a lucrative four-year $19 million deal in 2015, Nyquist has failed to live up to expectations. So far this season he has managed a mere four goals and 14 assists.

With little point production, Detroit’s goalies are having a hard time helping their team win games.

Goaltending

Detroit’s goaltending problems run deeper than simply stopping pucks.

Petr Mrazek, who saw the lion’s share of starts for the Wings after last year’s all-star break, was sure to be the team’s number one tender in 2016-17. Mrazek got off to a rough start though.

Predictably, Mrazek was replaced by (former) starter Jimmy Howard. Howard has since been sidelined with a sprained MCL and Mrazek now finds himself competing for starts against rookie Jared Coreau.

Coreau, with some controversy, was given the nod by Blashill and started in net for the Wings for the outdoor Centennial Classic on New Year’s Day.

To make matters worse, Howard has essentially become a $5.3 million human paperweight. He is now injured and unable to play. Moving him to another team (without retaining at least some of his salary) seems very unlikely. Not to mention the modified no-trade clause built into his contract until the end of the 2017-18 season.

There’s not much Ken Holland or Jeff Blashill can do about their current goal tending predicament. Even if they could find an NHL caliber starting goalie, there is simply no room in the cap to sign them.

Moving Forward

The Detroit Red Wings’ woes are real. They are severe. They are not going anywhere anytime soon. With nearly $9 million tied up on the long-term injured reserve list, the Detroit Red Wings might have to bow out of the playoffs this year. This would mean the end of a historic streak.

For the past 24 years, the Detroit Red Wings have managed to make the playoffs. Barring an incredible second half of the season, that streak appears to have run its course.

 

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