Now that Brent Burns has signed his eight-year, $64 million contract with the San Jose Sharks, the next big shoe to drop when it comes to impending free agent defenseman will be Kevin Shattenkirk, currently of the St. Louis Blues.
Because of his contract situation he has been the subject of trade rumors for more than a year now, but the Blues have refrained from dealing him because they don’t want to make a deal that they would regret. They know there is a risk of losing him for nothing, but they can’t just give him away for the sake of getting something in return.
He is too good of a player for that, and the Blues are still too good of a team. They could still contend for a championship this season, and they will need Shattenkirk — or a player of his caliber — to do that.
No matter where he ends up signing, whether it be in St. Louis on a contract extension or somewhere else after July 1, it should be pretty clear that he is going to be in demand and is going to be looking at a pretty significant raise over his current $4.25 million salary cap hit.
There are a couple of important factors to keep in mind here when trying to figure out what Shattenkirk’s next deal could look like.
The first is the fact that he has age on his side.
He doesn’t turn 28 until later this year and will be one of the younger defenders to potentially hit the open market. Keep in mind that Burns is currently three years older. Then look at the other top free agent defensemen that could be poised to hit the open market. Andrei Markov, as good as he still is, is 37. Mark Streit is 38. Brian Campbell is 37. Dennis Seidenberg is 35. Trevor Daley is 33. Fedor Tyutin is 33.
The other important point: At this point in his career he is better than all of those players, as well as the younger free agents that are set to hit the open market.
For teams that need a top-four defenseman, he is going to be the guy that sets the market and has all of the control.
When you look at the production it’s easy to see that Shattenkirk isn’t just the the best defenseman set to hit the open market, he has been one of the most productive defenders in the NHL since he arrived in St. Louis.
Since the start of the 2011-12 season he has scored at a 48-point pace per 82 games thanks to a 0.59 point per game average. Among active defenders that have played at least 100 games since then, that places him 11th in the league.
He has also been one of the league’s best possession drivers from the blue line with a 54.2 Corsi percentage during that stretch. That is good enough for 18th in the NHL. Shattenkirk is one of just five defensemen in the league to rank in the top-20 in both categories, joining a list that includes only Kris Letang, Duncan Keith, John Klingberg and Brent Burns.
That is elite company, and since they perform at somewhat similar levels, let’s take a look at what their contracts look like at the moment.
- Letang (signed at age 27): Eight years, $58 million, $7.25 million salary cap hit
- Keith (signed at age 27): 13 years, $72 million, $5.58 million salary cap hit
- Klingberg (signed at age 23): seven years, $29.75 million, $4.25 million salary cap hit
- Burns (signed at 31, starts next season): eight years, $64 million, $8 million salary cap hit
This gets a little complicated with some of these deals.
Keith’s contract isn’t even worth using as a comparison because that was signed during a time when teams could sign players for 14 or 15 years, tack on a few cheap years at the end, and bring the salary cap hit down to an absurdly low level.
Klingberg’s deal was all about the Stars taking a chance on a young player that had shown a ton of promise and taking a chance on locking him into a long-term deal. It was signed at a completely different point in his career. He should eventually (if all goes according to plan in his development) outperform that deal.
The Letang and Burns deals, however, should at least be in a similar ballpark. Shattenkirk probably won’t get quite that much, because for as good as he is, I don’t think anybody is prepared to say that he is as good or as impactful as those guys. Keith produces a similar level of offense, but is probably even better defensively. Letang, Burns, and even Klingberg (when he is going at his best, not so much this season) all produce significantly more offense.
But whatever small differences there are between them there is also no denying that his production and performance puts him in pretty good standing among the NHL’s defensemen and is probably going to result in a contract that probably probably falls in the $6-7 million per year range, which should put him somewhere between the sixth and 15th largest cap hits in the league at the position.
Right where he stands in terms of his production.