Wait, wait wait; hold on just a second. The Blues are 20-13-5, currently in comfortable possession of a playoff spot, and the biggest current team need is defense, as the Blues have a -3 overall goal differential. So, keeping all of that in mind, why on earth would the Blues want to trade Shattenkirk, one of their top 4 defensemen?
Well, first off and in all honesty, Kevin Shattenkirk is not re-signing with the St. Louis Blues when his contract ends at the end of this 2016-17 season. Obviously, as a complete outsider with no real knowledge of the negotiations, I can’t say that for sure. But, what I do know is that Shattenkirk is from New York, has clear interest in playing in New York, and has not signed an extension with the Blues yet.
I believe that if Shattenkirk was genuinely interested in staying in St. Louis, he would have already signed an extension. From what I’ve seen, Shattenkirk has a clear intent in testing his free agent market.
And for good reason.
Shattenkirk can serve as an absolute asset to any team. He is a bona fide top 4 defender, capable of putting up 50-60 points a season and captaining a power play. Offensive defensemen capable of playing top 4 minutes are sought after in this league like water in a desert.
The Blues have one of these commodities, and they can’t let him get away with nothing to show for.
Now, I love to win as much as the next guy, believe me, but sometimes a team simply has to sacrifice the present to secure a more successful future. This is one of those scenarios as the Blues, coming off of an appearance in the conference finals, are again in position to make a significant playoff run with a winning team.
However, the Blues are not a young, up and coming team that can realistically expect to be building their way towards a Stanley Cup. This is a team that looks to be right in their window of opportunity, and either needs to maximize that window, or start building towards the future.
Top line center Paul Stastny is 31 years old and 2017-18 is the final year on his contract. Top pairing defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is 33 and not getting any younger. Depth players such as Scottie Upshall and Kyle Brodziak are both in their mid-30’s, Alexander Steen is 32 as well and top players such as Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Pietrangelo and David Perron are all in their primes.
The Blues definitely do have young talent such as Robby Fabbri, Colton Parayko, and even Vladimir Tarasenko, still just a young 25 years old, but the team itself cannot reasonably be considered ‘young’.
With that in mind, the Blues’ window is closing for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, I just named 9 players off the top of my head that are either in or past their primes, including 5 of those players that are on the wrong side of 30 years old.
Secondly, the Blues have very little money to spend and room to navigate with their payroll. The NHL salary cap is currently set at $73 million, and the Blues are sitting at roughly $71.9 million, which – if my math is correct – gives them $1.1 million to work with. Or, in hockey terms, the Blues have two Ty Rattie’s worth of salary cap space.
So, aside from the fact that I don’t believe he’s interested in re-signing in St. Louis, the Blues have virtually no chance of meeting Kevin Shattenkirk’s projected $7 million per year demand. And, like I said earlier, the Blues cannot let Shattenkirk simply walk away in free agency without anything to show for him.
Now, the most reasonable thing for the Blues to do right now would be to wait right up until the February 28th trade deadline, and then trade Shattenkirk then. However, the title of this article was not ‘The Blues Should Trade Kevin Shattenkirk on February 28th’, it was ‘The Blues Should Trade Kevin Shattenkirk Right Now’.
According to TSN insider Darren Dreger, the trade market for defensemen is hot right now, and Shattenkirk would presumably go straight to the front of the line. Dreger mentioned the New York Rangers as a particular team looking for defense help in a “tough market, with so many teams after the same thing.”
When I heard Dreger say as much on the first intermission report during NBCSN’s intermission report last night, my interest was immediately piqued.
Why? Well, Shattenkirk is from New York and has pointed out his interest in playing for the Rangers or Islanders in his hometown. The Rangers are looking for a defenseman, and Shattenkirk just so happens to be a defenseman, so this works out quite nicely, eh?
So why should Doug Armstrong trade Shattenkirk now instead of waiting until the end of February and getting a better handle on his team’s ability to compete for a Stanley Cup? Because the Rangers are interested now, and the Blues can take advantage of that for an overpay.
By openly making Shattenkirk available right now, the Blues could beat all other teams to the market and spark a bidding war, considering that “so many teams” are after a defenseman.
Will the Blues be able to contend better in 2017 without Shattenkirk? No, and there’s no argument to be made that the Blues will be better off this season without Shattenkirk. In that light, it’s tough to look at the current state of the Blues and decide that making a trade right now that will make the team worse is the thing to do.
But Doug Armstrong must look towards the future, and in the future his greatest commodity is about set to walk away from the team. The Blues need to swallow their pride with Shattenkirk, deal him now while the market is hot, and get what they can for him before it’s too late.