There’s a version of “The Kevin Shattenkirk Story” that ends with the guy from New Rochelle hoisting the Stanley Cup over his head as a member of the New York Rangers, his favorite team as a child. He sacrificed money and contract security to live out a dream that incredibly came true. John McEnroe gives him a thumbs-up from the stands. Margot Robbie winks at him. Jimmy Fallon unfortunately left during the second period.
But there’s another version of “The Kevin Shattenkirk Story” that plays out much differently, like one of these twisted “Twilight Zone” tales whose basic premise can be boiled down to this:
Be careful what you wish for.
Kevin Shattenkirk wanted New York, and New York’s got him. So now we all wait to see what it does with him.
Playing for the Rangers doesn’t put a player in the media acid bath that is Montreal or Toronto (when Toronto has its knives out and isn’t in the midst of puppy love like it is now). But the stakes are higher, and the tabloid culture is more intense, than it was in St. Louis, for example. The Rangers don’t get the attention that the NFL does or baseball does or the Knicks get when the Knicks are in full-on circus mode. But there is attention, there is pressure and the coverage can be harsh if there’s blood in the water.
There’s also a time-honored tradition in New York media to treat acquisitions more harshly than homegrown talent, like high profile free agents for example. The combination of hype and investment combine to create expectations that are rarely met, and inevitably that player is labeled a bust.
But Shattenkirk knows all this.
“As a local boy, I grew up around it. I was able to read the newspaper and the news every day, experience it from a fan’s point of view,” he said.
Which makes the four-year, $26.6 million contract the defenseman signed with the Rangers on July 1 so interesting: It’s anything but overpayment for the top free agent of the summer, especially in term. Hell, Karl Alzner has more contractual security than Kevin Shattenkirk. Who saw that coming?
“You have to give Kevin credit on this one. He wanted to come here,” said Rangers GM Jeff Gorton. “I think that term deal was out there for him. He left money on the table.”
To that end, Shattenkirk doesn’t arrive in New York with a massive contract attached to him like an anchor. Sure, there are going to be expectations and knives out if he doesn’t perform. But this isn’t Brad Richards Part Deux, or even something as grandiose as the Chris Drury and Scott Gomez signings.
Rightly or wrongly, Shattenkirk is the Kid From New York Who Gave Away Money To Play For His Favorite Team.
“A lot of factors outside of money and term came into play. That’s what ultimately made the decision for me,” he said. “Obviously there were sacrifices to be made. But in my mind, those are the things you leave on the table to live out a dream like this.”
Again, he has no delusions about what he’s getting into here. If Kevin Shattenkirk has a playoff run as ordinary as the one he had with the Washington Capitals this spring – Gorton said the Rangers “thought he was playing better than some people in the media, perhaps” – then fans and writers and talking heads will take notice, and it won’t be pretty.
“I have to manage that myself. There’s going to be a lot of pressure, but that’s something that’s exciting to me. You can’t replicate that anywhere else in this league,” said Shattenkirk.
“I think it would have been hard for me to deal with it as a young player in this league. But I’m 28 years old and had a little bit of pressure during my career so far, so it’ll be a challenge but it’s something that I’ll work to.”
Shattenkirk was five years old when the Rangers last won the Stanley Cup. He’s made the decision to give up money, term and other considerations for a chance to see them do it again – and be a part of it.
“No matter where you go, you’re trying to win a Stanley Cup. To me, there’s no better place to do that than New York,” he said.
The pressure’s on.
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