While Bob McKenzie might be advising the St. Louis Blues to hold on to their top scoring defenseman just a little bit longer, in a very tight Central Division playoff race that may not be possible. The 26-year-old Kevin Shattenkirk has 27 points in 41 games played, but the Blues are 5-1-4 in their last ten contests, in large part due to a flagging offense.
As of January 23, the Blues are 20th in the league in goals per game, at just 2.47. Unfortunately for them, their goals against per game are almost equal, at 2.41. It’s hard to string together wins when a team gives up just as many goals as they score. In order to right the ship, they need to get some extra support for top ten scorer, Vladimir Tarasenko, and to do that, they’ll have to move a valuable piece.
A piece like Kevin Shattenkirk.
Because of the emergence of rookie Colton Prayako, Shattenkirk, once a staple of the Blues’ defense, is less important to the club’s future success.
With another year left on his contract, Shattenkirk’s $4.25 million per year cap hit might be too rich for some teams, but there’s undoubtedly interest. After all, he’s put up over 40 points each 82-game season since 2011-12, and is one of the league’s best point men on the power play.
So who could be a potential trade partner for the Blues? It has to be a team with the right mix of need, cap space, and expendable assets.
Everyone knows by now that the Oilers defense is a state of shambles. Still, that hasn’t stopped them from remaining competitive in the Pacific Division. While the division is admittedly weak, it means the Oilers are not out of playoff contention just yet, sitting eight points behind Vancouver and San Jose.
More importantly, though, they’re looking towards the future. Chiarelli knows the value of an offensive defenseman, having relied upon Zdeno Chara for all those years in Boston. Shattenkirk could help shape the Oilers’ attack into something more akin to that of the Dallas Stars. Can you imagine a power play unit with Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Connor McDavid, and Kevin Shattenkirk?
Not to mention, Edmonton has more than enough valuable forwards, including the aforementioned Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins, or even former first overall pick Nail Yakupov, for the Blues to be interested in kicking the tires. Despite cries of cap mismanagement, the Oilers still have over $2.2 million in cap space this year, and won’t have the burden of Nikita Nikitin’s $4.5m cap hit next year.
Of all the destinations, this one looks likeliest.
Tampa Bay Lightning
When the news broke that Jonathan Drouin was seeking a trade, the St. Louis Blues immediately became one of the first teams on the radar.
Drouin is a young, skilled player who was unhappy with his ice time and deployment on Tampa’s third line – that is, when he wasn’t a healthy scratch. Now that Drouin is refusing to report to the Syracuse Crunch, Tampa Bay’s American Hockey League affiliate, he has been indefinitely suspended by the club, and his value on the open market is plummeting.
This could be great news for the Blues who need to jumpstart their top line. While Tarasenko is top ten in the league in points, with Alexander Steen not far behind at 17, none of their other forwards are even in the top 100, with Backes next up at 106. Slotting Drouin into the Blues’ top six could give them a much needed burst of creativity.
Complicating matters though, is Tampa Bay’s cap situation.
Originally, the rumor had General Manager Steve Yzerman asking for forward Robby Fabbri in return for Drouin, making it a like-for-like trade.
Shattenkirk would still be a good fit for Tampa Bay, as they tend to play a more aggressive game where defenders are encouraged to activate to create more offense, but the Lightning are cap-strapped as it is.
Right now, the Lightning have over $23 million of cap space tied up in just five defenders, and all but one of those contracts extends into next season. Plus, captain Steven Stamkos is sure to need big money for his next extension. Adding another $4.25m, even for a 40-point player, might just be too much for them to bear.
A dark horse pick, the Boston Bruins actually make a lot of sense as a landing destination for Shattenkirk.
First, he wouldn’t end up in the Western Conference. Come playoff time, the Blues would be loathe to see Shattenkirk lining up for the opposing team. Given their lack of playoff success, that has to be on Doug Armstrong’s mind.
Second, Boston’s defense just hasn’t been the same this year. This season, the Bruins are allowing 2.61 goals against per game, by far their highest average since 2008-09. With Chara getting older, and the next two most veteran defenders being Dennis Seidenberg (seven points in 30 games) and Kevan Miller (12 points in 39 games), they could use some experience on the blue line. Also, Shattenkirk would only make their scary power play even more dangerous.
Last, the Bruins have over $3 million in cap space right now, and an unrestricted free agent to be in winger Loui Eriksson. He is projected to be worth over $5m per year in the open market, which will be difficult to manage for a Bruins team that needs to extend or replace eleven different skaters.
The Blues could flip Shattenkirk for a top line winger and have first crack at signing Eriksson during the offseason when Backes and Brower come off the books.
No matter what happens, one thing is clear; the Blues need to make a move to bolster their offense. Shattenkirk might just be the key to making that happen.