For 19 regular season games and 13 playoff games, the nation's capital was the home of defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. The highly skilled defenseman was acquired by the Capitals during the 2017 trade deadline to help bolster the team’s defensive unit.
Shattenkirk’s time in Washington received mixed reviews. The Capitals fell in the second round of the playoffs to the Pittsburgh Penguins and Shattenkirk, despite being seen as the top prize of the trade deadline, ended up playing primarily on the Caps’ third pairing.
With Shattenkirk back in town on Friday as a member of the New York Rangers, Barry Trotz was asked Thursday about why the acquisition did not seem to work out for the Caps.
“I think it takes a little bit of adjustment,” Trotz said to the media after practice.
“We play a little different from some teams. It worked in areas that we wanted. He helped our power play. He made it more dangerous and that. I think everybody thought of him as a 1-2 and he really wasn't. He was a little lower. I think it worked out OK. I think he had a patch during the one series where it wasn't really good. I think he regained it and scored a big goal for us in Pitt. I just think, yeah, the first playoff series wasn't, that's what you remember. It sticks out. But I think overall he was fine.”
The Rangers were also practicing at Kettler on Thursday which gave Shattenkirk an opportunity to respond to Trotz’s evaluation.
“It doesn't sit well with you,” he said. “It's nothing that you enjoy hearing, but I think there's a lot of people who probably think that about me and I like to use that in my favor and try to use that as something to just keep me boosted and prove people wrong.”
Shattenkirk signed a four-year $26.6 million contract with the Rangers in the offseason. Even with a deal that carries a $6.65 million cap hit, it is still believed to be somewhat of a hometown discount considering the New York native had offers for more money and longer term on the table.
Despite his new contract, however, Shattenkirk does not even play on the top pairing on his new team. Instead, he skates alongside Brady Skjei on the second pairing behind Ryan McDonagh and Nick Holden.
So perhaps it is hard to argue with Trotz’s point.
Shattenkirk’s offensive skills are undeniable and he already has five goals and 20 points in 27 games for his new team. His defensive acumen, however, is what is frequently called into question.
When asked if he felt he was a top-pair player, Shattenkirk said, “I think I'm working towards it. I think there's a lot more room for me to grow. I think that I have to handle those top-end matchups a little bit better and when I get those opportunities, I really have to make sure that I make them count.
“I know we have a guy like Ryan McDonagh is a good example for me, someone who I try to watch and the way that he handles players like the Ovechkins and the Backstroms and the Crosbys, that's something that I'm still working towards. I don't think I'm there yet, but I think I can get there.”
Ultimately, you are worth what teams are willing to pay you. His worth to the Rangers is just over $26 million. Whether that makes him a No. 1 or 2 defenseman, that’s up to Shattenkirk to prove.