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Kevin Shattenkirk Out Indefinitely - So What Now?

Shatty

Well this is an interesting development out of nowhere. It was no secret that Kevin Shattenkirk has been severely underwhelming after coming out of the gates hot – predominantly on the power play which is a big reason why he was brought here. But the scoring dried up in a big way. Only Marc Staal averages less 5×5 points per 60 and, since November 11th, Shatty has tallied just a pair of secondary 5×5 assists. After racking up 9 PPP up to that date, he’s totaled a mere 4 PPA. And when the offense isn’t there, the defensive shortcomings garner far more attention. No one’s been on the ice for more even strength goals against by a significant margin, which is well reflected in his -14. No other Blueshirts defender is worse than +2.

There’s certainly reason to question why the Rangers ran their $26.6M investment on the ice when they knew this was an issue since September – but we’re here now and Shatty has decided he can’t keep pushing it. The good thing is, in his words, he’ll be healthy for the home stretch. Also, considering his production in both ends (or lack thereof) over the last couple months, Tony DeAngelo really has to bomb to be a downgrade & finally gets a legitimate shot to shine. But with 2 key players now out “indefinitely” (Kreider as well) & Hayes battling what’s hopefully a minor lower-body injury, it’s fair to wonder what impact this will have as the deadline approaches in a month. Their upcoming schedule features 10 road matchups in their next 13 – almost all against legit playoff squads. If this season takes a turn for the worse will Jeff Gorton actually sell?

I asked Twitter yesterday for questions to feature in a mailbag post I’m hoping to put together for Monday, but I did get a couple on potentially moving Ryan McDonagh. Since swinging a deal for Mac would be the ultimate “sell & rebuild” maneuver possible, I figured I’d tackle him separately here. While it’s hard to picture the Rangers ever throwing in the towel on a season, circumstances are stacking up to increase the odds of that happening.

McD

Since his first full season (2011-12), only 11 defenders have accumulated more regular season minutes than the Rangers captain. Exactly ZERO have played more postseason time. Hard to find too many more dependable 1D & because of that, his 2019 free agency will get him paid well. If Shatty can “take a discount” for 4 years/$6.65M per, you’d have to think the annual price tag for McDonagh starts at $7-8M. Mark Giordano inked a 6 year/$6.75M per deal in Calgary a couple years ago right before his 32nd birthday. When Mac’s contract expires next summer he’ll be freshly 30 years old, albeit with a lot of mileage. If his next contract is with the Blueshirts then both sides will most likely want to make it his last. So the big question is how much more “peak” McDonagh will be left at 30 if the term on a new deal could be up to 8 years.

Moving their captain & unquestionably most reliable defender during a Vezina-caliber year from Hank would be as blatant a white flag as the Rangers can realistically wave. If McDonagh goes then everyone else has to go. But if we’re hypothetically suggesting landing spots, Toronto rumors make a lot of sense. Babcock’s team is really struggling lately. They’re losing games late, a couple blueliners are banged up & their goalie is calling out their overall effort publicly. Even when healthy they lean heavily on 36 year-old Ron Hainsey in their top four. Sounds like the perfect spot for a proven leader & shutdown guy. Although the Leafs have plenty of youth to swap, their hurdle here is cap space. They have none. So the only way it works is if the Rangers take an expiring contract like van Reimsdyk in return. It wouldn’t be smart to eat any salary & have more dead money on the books for next year.

Projecting what the Rangers could expect as the main haul, look no further than what they gave up a couple deadlines ago for 28 year-old Keith Yandle with a year & a half left on his deal. The Rangers parted with a 1st, 2nd & one of their top prospects in Anthony Duclair. If NY was to accommodate Toronto’s cap issue like the Yotes did with Yandle (ate half), Mitch Marner is a nice name to package with a first-rounder. I’d prefer Nylander but he’s Matthews’ right-hand man. Marner is obviously NHL-ready & can play on the wing or up the middle (although the 20 year-old needs to fill out more). If the Rangers wanted to be real patient, elite D prospect Timothy Liljegren, who’s projected to be a slam-dunk top pair talent, would also be a stellar return. I’d assume that’s less likely though. NY would probably want a more immediate impact while Toronto could simply view McDonagh as a placeholder until Liljegren is ready.

While a trade like that sounds great on the surface, you have to look at what that does for the Rangers going forward. McDonagh is one of the league’s best blueliners in the prime of his career yet the team’s defensive corps as a whole is highly suspect. Brady Skjei is easily their best long-term in-house option but he’s still got some work to do defensively to be relied on as a true #1 against the league’s best. A healthy Shattenkirk could play a top role like he was expected to, but it remains to be seen how much his knee injury was to blame for an awful couple months. He’s clearly no defensive stalwart either. After that though? Staal & Smith are under contract for 3 more seasons but should never rank among a legit team’s top 3 defensemen. Free agency doesn’t have much to offer this summer. Next summer there’s some big names who are eligible but odds are they’re gonna re-sign with their current team or the team they’re eventually traded to. They’ll also cost more than Mac.

So is it such a bad thing to consider Ryan McDonagh a Ranger for life? Doughty & Karlsson will command $10M per on their next contracts. Both better than Mac without question – but if their captain stays put for $7-8M per is he not 70-80% of those players? Of course he is. And if McDonagh happens to regress through the middle & end of his final contract, there’s plenty of time before then for the organization to acquire & groom younger replacements. Worst case scenario, he finishes his career as a team leader & quality mid-pair guy. His floor is nowhere near that of Staal or Girardi so the odds of his contract becoming useless money on the books are slim. But if Gorton can build a high-level crop around Mac, or at least give him a legitimate partner at some point, then who’s to say he can’t thrive through his mid-late 30’s? Plenty of defenders do.

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If you’re truly thinking big picture for the New York Rangers then selling some current pieces for futures makes all the sense in the world. Nash, Grabner, Holden, Desharnais & maybe even Zucc. But there’s a case to be made for Ryan McDonagh having more value to this franchise’s future as a part of it rather than just a part of their history.