Kevin Shattenkirk‘s New York homecoming has been anything but sweet.
It’s only three games into the 2018-19 season, but the 0-3-0 New York Rangers are considering benching their highest-paid defenseman as a healthy scratch on Thursday night against the San Jose Sharks. Shattenkirk, 29, signed a four-year, $26.6 million deal in the summer of 2017. It was considered a market discount for Shattenkirk, a New Rochelle, New York, native, to play for the team he grew up rooting for.
However Shattenkirk tore a meniscus in his left knee in his first training camp and underwent knee surgery in January, which forced him to miss the final 36 games of the 2017-18 season. The Rangers missed the playoffs for the first time in eight years. Shattenkirk, known as one of the league’s better offensive defensemen, posted only five goals and 18 assists in his first season with the Rangers (46 games), which accounted for his lowest points-per-game average of his career (0.50).
This offseason the Rangers hired David Quinn — Shattenkirk’s old coach at Boston University, as well as for 10 games in the AHL — but the reunion hasn’t been great. After posting 20-plus minutes in the Rangers’ first two games, Shattenkirk played for only 7:29 in a wild 8-5 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday. Shattenkirk was a minus-2 in that game, and has yet to record a point this season.
Shattenkirk addressed the potential benching with reporters after Tuesday’s practice. “You have to learn from it, obviously. I’m not a guy that would take that the wrong way and mope about it,” Shattenkirk said, according to the New York Post. “It’s the NHL; if you’re not playing well, there are guys that are playing well. Tony DeAngelo played a phenomenal game the [Sunday] night [in Carolina]. He’s earned a spot on the roster. I think all the ‘D’ have earned a spot on the roster, and I’m probably the guy that needs to fight a little bit harder to get my spot back. It’s on me, for sure.”
Before last season’s trade deadline, team president Glen Sather and general manager Jeff Gorton released an open letter to fans opening a dialogue “about the future” — all but admitting to a roster overhaul, as well as a rebuild. After the season, the team fired coach Alain Vigneault and replaced him with Quinn, in hopes the former college coach would help develop the younger players. The Rangers have 12 players on the roster who are 25 years old or younger.