In order to upgrade their defense, the Colorado Avalanche should consider going after Kevin Shattenkirk. They will have to pay a lot, though.
The Colorado Avalanche need help on defense — I don’t think anyone’s going to argue with that. The team could use a stud defenseman, a player who really makes a difference on the blueline.
As of right now, the Avalanche have Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie as their best defensemen. However, as we’ve seen this season, that hasn’t really been enough. Granted Johnson has been out since December 3, with a broken fibula, but that hasn’t been the only part of Colorado’s defensive woes.
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In a previous post, I outline how the Colorado Avalanche’s defense could improve. I based the “formula” on what’s considered one of the best — or at least most improved — defenses in the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets’. Here’s how it could play out:
veteran great defenseman-stud defenseman
pure offensive defenseman-talented 2-way defenseman
poised young 2-way defenseman – puck-moving prospect
Now, in that post I posed how the Avs would have to trade a core forward to get the defensive stud. In this post, I’m going to propose how Colorado could acquire one of the necessary elements of that mold without trading a core forward.
Let’s get this out of the way — the Colorado Avalanche drafted Kevin Shattenkirk 14th overall in 2007. They then traded him to the St. Louis Blues in February 2011 in a multi-player trade that brought Erik Johonson to Colorado.
That’s a little awkward, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
In any case, Shattenkirk is a 27-year-old right hand shot. He’s 5-foot-11 and 207 pounds. He was part of the same prestigious US National Development Team program that trained Erik Johnson. Kevin has represented his country in several international competitions, including the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Despite not being overly large, Shattenkirk can use his body against opponents very well. He’s a great offensive defenseman with poise in all three zones. He’s currently tied (with Shea Weber) at #6 in the entire NHL for points by defensemen with 28 (8 goals, 20 assists.)
Kevin Shattenkirk is also an analytics darling. His current Corsi For percent is 56.5, which means the team controls the puck more often when he’s on the ice. His relative Corsi is 2.9, which is another way of saying the team is better when he’s on the ice.
So, I wouldn’t go so far as to say Kevin Shattenkirk is a true stud defenseman. However, he could still improve the Avalanche’s defensive corps.
Right hand shot defensemen are always prized in the NHL. Currently, the Colorado Avalanche have two regulars who are RHS — Johnson and Barrie. Cody Goloubef, who got the call-up after Johnson was injured, is also a RHS. I’m guessing that’s why he keeps getting dressed over true NHL defensemen.
Anyway, that does make it a little awkward for slotting Shattenkirk into the Avs lineup. Many coaches prefer to always have a righty and a lefty line up together. Since righties are fewer than lefties, that’s part of what makes them so prized.
However, that’s a preference not a rule. Colorado has had to run part of its blueline with two lefties paired together most of the season. Heck, even the Chicago Blackhawks’ top pairing of Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson is comprised of two lefties.
So, why not see the Avs line up two righties?
In this case, pairing Shattenkirk with Johnson makes more sense than with Barrie. Tyson is very irresponsible defensively. While Kevin is better, he’d do better with a two-way defenseman such as Erik.
Another scenario could have the Colorado Avalanche signing Shattenkirk and trading Barrie. Kevin is an upgrade on Tyson as offensive defenseman. Shattenkirk produces more (270 points in 454 games to Barrie’s 174 points in 305). He also plays a smidge more defense.
Or, the Avs could get wild and try pairing Shattenkirk and Barrie for a real offensive threat. They’d need some two-way forwards on the ice, though. Someone has to play defense.
Kevin Shattenkirk is possibly the most alluring defenseman who might actually make it to free agency. So, what would Colorado have to do to get him?
Currently Kevin Shattenkirk is finishing out a standard contract with a yearly cap hit of $4.25 million but that sees him making $5.2 million this season. Now, we all learned how a back-loaded contract can increase a player’s next contract thanks to Ryan O’Reilly.
Plus, the Colorado Avalanche traded Shattenkirk in his rookie year. That makes an impression on a player, no matter how much they always say, “We know it’s just business.” Plus, there’s the whole “Colorado is the worst team in the NHL” thing.
In other words, Shattenkirk might not be too keen on coming to the Avalanche.
One option Colorado could have is trading for Shattenkirk. Currently St. Louis is solidly in a playoff spot, so it’s doubtful they’d want to trade him before the deadline. The best the Avs could hope for would be a Carl Soderberg-type trade, meaning they give up a late-round draft pick for the rights to negotiate with Kevin early on. Otherwise, they could wait for free agency proper.
Either way, Colorado would have to throw some dough at him. They traded him, you see, and they’re the worst in the NHL. The only way to encourage him to look over those two faults is with a fat, juicy contract. Possibly money and term.
Seth Jones is the stud defenseman from my original mold. He’s younger than Shattenkirk, and he’s already making $5.4 million in a six-year deal. A better comparison might be Matt Niskanen, who made it to free agency in 2014. He signed a seven-year contract with an annual hit of $5.75 million.
To get Kevin Shattenkirk, Colorado might have to offer that, which is pretty much in line with Barrie’s contract (four years with an AAV of $5.5 million.) Or they might have to match Erik Johnson’s seven years at $6 million AAV.
According to TSN, his price might go as high as $50 million over seven years, meaning around $7 million annually. That breaks the new salary cap ceiling set by Nathan MacKinnon‘s $6.3 million.
The Colorado Avalanche have up to $22 million getting freed up this summer. If they have to pay Kevin Shattenkirk even $7 million, they can afford it. If the Avs are serious about upgrading their blueline, it’s time they make a bold move.