Game Time’s Dan Buffa wrote a compelling piece yesterday on his belief that Kevin Shattenkirk should not be traded for Ben Bishop. While I agree with many things that he had to say, I felt compelled to issue a conditional rebuttal. Indeed, I believe that such a move could be a great way to set up the long term health of the franchise - under certain conditions.
First, let’s dispatch with the Jake Allen/Bishop comparisons. Allen’s .911 SV% and 2.47 GAA compare favorably with Bishop’s .919 and 2.33. In the playoffs, however, Bishop’s numbers improve to .927 and 2.09, whereas Allen’s save percentage dips to .902 while his GAA improves slightly to 2.29.
Sample size and experience are also relevant here. Bishop has played in and started 36 playoff games for a hair over 2000 minutes, whereas Allen has roughly a quarter as much experience - 11 games, 8 starts, 498 minutes played. Ben Bishop has started six games in the Stanley Cup finals, whereas Jake Allen only played as deep as the Conference Finals last year because the Blues were desperate to right the ship.
Allen’s dismal season this year has been well documented, and the financial commitment the Blues have made to him stands as a substantial impediment to any change. Indeed, if the Blues don’t have a game plan to get out from under his contract, any deal involving Bishop and Shattenkirk becomes a game of shuffling the Titanic’s deck chairs, and should be avoided.
There is, however, hope on that front. The Vegas Golden Knights enter the league next season and will need a goaltender. Kevin Allen of USA Today wrote an article projecting their potential roster, and his prospects for their goaltending were underwhelming.
Jimmy Howard, Semyon Varlamov, and Marc-Andre Fleury were the best of the bunch. All three have much more odious contracts than Allen does (and Varlamov has his own personal drawbacks stemming from domestic violence concerns), and there’s no guarantee that Fleury will be willing to waive his no movement clause to join the Golden Knights.
Jake Allen has no such movement protection, and the Blues have no other obvious candidates on their roster that would otherwise appeal to Las Vegas. The Blues also have a personal connection to the Vegas front office; Blues GM Doug Armstrong has a son, Blake, who works as a pro scout for the team, and there have been lingering suspicions around the league that both Armstrong and Ken Hitchcock could view Vegas as a greener pasture after a tough year in St. Louis.
In previous expansion drafts, trades have been executed which were designed to provide teams with extra security. The San Jose Sharks, for example, made deals with both Minnesota and Columbus to avoid losing Evgeni Nabokov. Could the Blues offer Vegas a draft pick or a spare part player to guarantee they select Jake Allen? Such an offer would have to be tempting if the Golden Knights believe that Allen still has untapped potential.
If Allen can be moved, then, the question turns to the potential return for Shattenkirk. The time has likely come and gone for anything beyond a standard rental return. While Keith Yandle may be the most similar player to have been traded in recent years, he still had a year remaining on his contract when moved, and the Coyotes agreed to retain 50% of that salary.
Kris Russell’s trade at the deadline last year also comes to mind, though Russell was substantially less desired than Shattenkirk will be. He returned Jyrki Jokkipaka, Brett Pollock, and a conditional draft pick that ended up being a second rounder. Pollock is a fringe player and Jokkipaka is a defensive defenseman who is unlikely to do more than round out a team’s bottom pairing, making the pick the most valuable asset.
The teams most frequently mentioned in connection with Shattenkirk are in the north east - the Rangers, the Bruins, the Devils, perhaps the Maple Leafs. One would assume that each would have to be willing to surrender their first round pick this year, but each of the latter three teams is on the bubble to even reach the tournament.
The Rangers, securely in a playoff spot, have already traded away their second round pick, so a move for Shattenkirk would leave them without a draft selection in at least the top 75 picks. That’s a dangerous way to build a team, and with the Rangers likely to be a preferred free agent landing spot for Shattenkirk anyway, they may not be inclined to get a jump on the market at that cost.
Ultimately, it may be difficult to generate a rental type return for Kevin Shattenkirk that truly fulfills the needs of the Blues. While it only takes one motivated buyer to begin driving prices, teams around the league are well aware of the situation the Blues find themselves in. If Tampa is willing to gamble that he can provide some short term relief, then the Blues may need to consider the possibility of starting down a path toward righting some of the long term wrongs the organization has been inflicting on itself.