Toronto Maple Leafs: Evaluating Kevin Shattenkirk

The Toronto Maple Leafs need a #1 Defenseman, preferably a right-handed one.

The consensus seems to be that in order to get this player, the Toronto Maple Leafs will have to trade from their stock of forwards.  Some treasonous commentators have suggested Nylander (untouchable) and others have suggested Kapanen (should also be untouchable).

But why should the Leafs trade from an area of strength? Injuries happen, depth is important and most of all, it lets you exploit teams by putting star players down in the lineup.   Instead of trading their forwards, the Leafs should keep them.

Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson pretty much shows that there is no point in moving an F for a D.  I’d consider William Nylander for Colton Parayko, but the market says that is a ridiculous ask.  So better to sign a free agent.

Now, every time I’ve mentioned Kevin Shattenkirk, people get mad.  They say he’s no good at defense, that he’s overrated.  He didn’t put the Capitals over the top, but he was a very effective player for them.

Shattenkirk Stats:


Kevin Shattenkirk just had his seventh straight 40+ point season (if you prorate the lockout) and finished with 56 points.  He had 23 5v5 points, good for 23rd in the NHL (same amount as Jake Gardiner).   Here is a link to a Hero Chart that compares him to an average “#1 Defenseman” :

Shattenkirk vs Prototype #1

As you can see, he compares well.  What is most impressive about Shattenkirk, is that he plays excellent defense.  Elite even.  Though he’s known as a high-risk offensive defenseman, the stats just don’t back that up.  He is ranked an 8 out of 10 in shot-suppression.

Shattenkirk finished this past season with a 53% CF rating, good for 23rd in the NHL among D who played 1000 minutes.  That is an elite rating.  He scored 53 points and when he was on the ice, his team too 53% of the shots.   If you cause your team to get more shots than the other team, you can’t be bad at defense, and Shattenkirk is certainly not.

In the last five years, Shattenkirk has a corsi-for % of 54% which means that when he is on the ice, his team gets 54% of all shot-attempts.  This is elite.  There are 210 defenseman – roughly – in the NHL and last year, 12 of them had CF% over 54.

The defensive impact of Shattenkirk is off the charts.  Not only does he provide elite offensive production, he provides elite defensive production.  He is one of the best players in the NHL.  At worst, he’s a top 20 NHL defenseman.

Here’s Shattenkirk compared to PK Subban:

Shattenkirk vs PK Subban

Toronto Maple Leafs Should Sign Him

Consider that he can be acquired without giving up any assets.  If you don’t think the Leafs should get him, are you in favor of trading a player they don’t need to in order to get a player who will almost certainly not be as good as Shattenkirk?

To me, signing him seems like a no brainer. You get to keep all your forward depth and you get one of the best players in the world.   For free.

Yes, I get that his cap hit will be high. I get that he’s going to be 29 next year and that as he ages, his contract will look worse and worse.  However, the Leafs have two years to go for it before their three best players cost between 26-30 million dollars a year.  Overpaying a bit for a guy like Shattenkirk has the potential to really pay off.

Furthermore, if it’s the only “bad” contract the Toronto Maple Leafs have, they can probably live with it.

And, if you need more convincing, think of it this way:  Shattenkirk will never be as overpaid as Dion Phaneuf was and they got out of that contract.  One day, if they need to, they can also get out of Shattenkirk’s.

People seem to be against this. I don’t understand why.  Shattenkirk is elite.  He is better than anything the Leafs have had on their blueline in a decade or more.  He is in his prime and would take the Leafs D from average to scary.

Just to re-cap, this past season, Kevin Shattenkirk was 1) 4th in total defenseman scoring 2) 23rd in 5v5 scoring 3) 23rd in puck possession and 4) has done it for seven straight seasons.

He is available for free, and is, at worst , a top 15-20 defenseman in the entire NHL.

I can find a hundred reasons to sign him, can’t think of a good reason not to.

Hero Charts from  stats from