St. Louis Blues defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk is keeping an open mind when it comes to the daily barrage of trade talk.
In just about every town the Blues play in, the personable defenceman is asked where he may end up, either at the NHL trade deadline in three weeks’ time or during the off-season. The Leafs, who need blue-line help, have been among the teams linked to the 28-year-old from Greenwich, Conn.
Shattenkirk, the subject of speculation starting this past summer, is hardened to the questioning and mindful that he is nearing free agency for the first time in his career, with a chance to maximize his value.
“Last summer, it wasn’t so much the appeal (of a trade). It was just that you don’t know. You don’t know what’s out there,” Shattenkirk said.
“You wait for teams to see what the opportunity is. This is the first time in my career I’m in this position, but I can tell you (trade talk) is part of the routine now. It happens every day now.
“It’s been a different year that way, a different situation . . . but it really hasn’t been that stressful. There’s a lot to worry about in this locker room, ups and downs, so that allows me to focus on hockey. Being in St. Louis helps, too. Not the frenzy it is up here.”
Shattenkirk has performed at an all-star level through his seven years in St. Louis and is part of a solid, veteran blue line loaded with right-handed shots — along with Alex Pietrangelo, Robert Bortuzzo and Colton Parayko.
He’s in the final season of a four-year, $17-million contract with an average annual value and cap hit of $4.25 million. The business of hockey suggests he is a trade candidate, and that subject has been discussed with general manager Doug Armstrong.
On paper, Shattenkirk is a natural fit for the Leafs with veteran savvy and the ability to handle top opposing forwards, something Toronto’s defence has been lacking the past few weeks.
A deal ahead of the March 1 deadline, though, remains a long shot. Shattenkirk could command at least $6 million annually on a multi-year deal, and with several young stars Toronto has salary-cap issues to be mindful of in the coming years.
For instance, when cornerstone rookies Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner finish their three-year entry-level contracts, the Leafs could face the same situation the Chicago Blackhawks did in the summer of 2014, when it came to locking up Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane (each signing for $84 million over eight seasons) and keeping their championship core intact.
As a two-month rental for a run at the playoffs, the Leafs would also likely steer clear of dealing away one of their prized youngsters in exchange.
For now, Shattenkirk remains a Blue and happy to be part of a special time in franchise history. The club’s 50th season has featured a host of visits by star alumni.
“We’re almost spoiled with our alumni contingency,” Shattenkirk said. “You can have guys like Brett Hull and Al MacInnis in the locker room, and all of them are great guys — just seeing them and seeing what it means to them to wear this jersey.”
Along with the recent firing of head coach Ken Hitchcock, the Blues cut ties with goalie coach Jim Corsi and replaced him with development coach Ty Conklin — with an assist from Hockey Hall of Famer Marty Brodeur, who recorded the last three of his record 691 NHL wins as a Blue.
Brodeur recently spent time working with goalie Jake Allen, after Allen was hooked from three straight games and asked to stay home for a road game to hit the reset button. On Tuesday in Ottawa, he shut out the Senators.
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