If it was clear that Kevin Shattenkirk wanted to come play for the Rangers, maybe it wasn’t clear just how confident he was about their chance to win a Stanley Cup.
The 28-year-old defenseman from New Rochelle signed his four-year, $26.6 million contract as a free agent on July 1, carrying an annual salary-cap hit of $6.65 million. He said there was one thing that took priority over being closer to his family and playing for his favorite childhood team.
“I think when it came down to it, it was a matter of having a chance to play at home, for sure, but really getting on a team that I think is going to have a chance to win a Stanley Cup in the timeframe that I’m signing for,” Shattenkirk said on Tuesday at the team’s Tarrytown practice facility before participating in a camp with the Junior Rangers. “I really didn’t find a better situation than here.”
When Shattenkirk made the decision, it seemed he was focused on a small period of Rangers’ history, most notably the previous seven straight appearances in the playoffs that included one run to the Stanley Cup final and three conference finals. To zoom out would show the picture that the Rangers have won just a single Stanley Cup in 77 years, going back to 1940.
But his childhood fandom peaked with that championship team of 1994, and the recent success has painted a picture of the organization that is rather rosy.
“When you’re with the New York Rangers, their business is to win every year,” Shattenkirk said. “They’re not a team that’s looking to go through a rebuilding period, and it seems like every year they’re making the moves necessary to make their team a championship team. In that respect, it’s kind of hard to see what the window is here, because every year I’ve been in the league they’ve been capable of winning a Stanley Cup.”
Speaking of windows, Shattenkirk also brought up the fact that when evaluating the Rangers’ chances, most people look to Henrik Lundqvist, the 35-year-old franchise netminder who may be cheap nhl jerseys just about to start slowing down. From here until the end of his career, the question will always arise about how much more Lundqvist has left, but Shattenkirk was at least confident enough to sign up for four years.
“It’s tough to say,” Shattenkirk said when asked about the Rangers’ chance to win it all. “I think everyone is probably going to judge that on Lundqvist. Everyone is talking about how long does he have left. I don’t know him extremely well. But from the times I’ve met him, I know he’s an extremely competitive person. We have a lot of young players on this team though to counterbalance that.”
One of the other big things that brought Shattenkirk to the Rangers was the chance to play alongside fellow American, Ryan McDonagh, whom he has known since they were teenagers playing in the USA Hockey program. The Rangers’ captain is a lefty and his skating ability could match very well with Shattenkirk’s natural offensive instincts. If winning a championship was a big priority to Shattenkirk, than so was playing next to someone who could help raise his own game.
And if not McDonagh as a partner, then Shattenkirk could possibly pair with 23-year-old lefty Brady Skjei, another American. After all, Shattenkirk did grow up idolizing Brian Leetch, the first American defenseman to ever win the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP.
“Individualistically, who can I play with that’s going to make me the best player?” Shattenkirk said. “I think I have the opportunity here to play with Ryan McDonagh, who is an All-Star defenseman in my mind and I think a great fit for me. We’ve played together since we were 17 or 18 years old, we’ve had a few experiences. Then there’s Brady Skjei, who’s a phenomenal left-handed defenseman too.”
All of that will come with the opening of training camp in September, when the lights will be on Shattenkirk and his sights will be set on winning a Stanley Cup. That is why he decided to come here, after all.
“I think that all the pressure that you have to endure through those moments, if you can bring it home in New York, for me, it’s something that you can never replicate anywhere else,” he said. “Whatever city it is, New York is New York, and for as critical as the fanbase is, and the media, they’re just as happy to see you win and your legacy will live on forever.”