With his name circulating the rumor mill at every turn, Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk knows he can't avoid the talk.
As arguably the top player on everyone's board when it comes to acquisitions at the trade deadline, the 28-year-old Shattenkirk will continue to appear in the lineup for the Blues (29-22-5) unless something drastic happens. He is in the last of a four-year, $17 million contract and will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
And that's why Shattenkirk — who leads the Blues with 28 assists and 11 goals in 56 games heading into the game against the Detroit Red Wings (22-24-10) on Wednesday (7 p.m.; NBCSN, KMOX 1120-AM) — is taking the chatter in stride, especially after the Blues' visit to Canadian cities (Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal) the past three games.
"No different than I have been really," Shattenkirk said. "I think last week was probably the toughest week just as far as media and the attention being in Canada. I want to say in a way, I have a luxury of playing in St. Louis because it's not really at the forefront, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. But it's something that I'm prepared for and I'm ready to take it day-by-day and see (what) comes and goes. It's been present all year, so I think that helped me deal with it."
Blues Coach Mike Yeo said he has been impressed with Shattenkirk's focus.
"So much media attention, and it's a popular story right now," Yeo said. "But I think he's doing an unbelievable job of putting it aside. He answers the questions; he doesn't dodge it. But when it comes time for game time, his focus is on his team, and that's a real credit for him."
Photos: Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk
It's no secret that the Blues would love nothing more than to keep Shattenkirk around for the long haul, but the price tag could be too much. With his impending UFA status and the potential price tag expected to be anywhere from $6-7 million per season on a long-term contract the Blues might nit be able to match his price tag.
Despite the team being in the middle of the Stanley Cup Playoff chase in the Western Conference and after already losing veterans David Backes and Troy Brouwer last summer to free agency, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong may feel he has no other choice than to trade the defenseman.
But until that day comes — if it comes — it's business as usual for Shattenkirk and the Blues, who have matched a season-high winning streak at four games.
Yeo said Shattenkirk is handling the situation better than others he has seen in his career.
"Unbelievably well, and we've had a couple of conversations about this," Yeo said. "I've been around to see some similar situations where it really affects a player's play. I haven't seen that from him at all, and I really credit the reason for that is he has been all-in to our group and I give him so much credit for that. He could be focused on himself and his own situation, but he's trying to help us win. He's trying to buy in and to dig in to the game that we're trying to play. I'm happy that he's getting rewarded for that as well.
"If something happens, then it happens, but until then, he's on this team and he's a real important player for us and he's proven that."
Yeo, when he took over for Hitchcock, made it a point of pulling Shattenkirk aside and addressing the situation one-on-one, just to make sure the player needs the coach for some moral support.
"He's pulled me aside and just checked in really just to make sure I'm doing alright," Shattenkirk said. "I think he knew that the last road trip was a little tough on me, but he's helped me focus on what's going on here and he's asked me to really, as a leader, to buy into what he's selling. I think it's easy for me to do that because he's someone who I enjoy having as a coach and is someone I want the respect of down the road."
Yeo said: "I felt it was something that I needed to do. I think that those are the conversations you need to have when you're a coach. There's something that could be on your player's mind, something that could potentially be a distraction or get them off their game, but after a quick conversation, I wasn't too worried that that would be the case."
Shattenkirk said the recent team run, his teammates' support and a plethora of other developments within the Blues' organization — namely Yeo replacing the fired Ken Hitchcock on Feb. 1 — have helped alleviate some of the distractions of his own situation.
"I think we've had a lot of distractions in this locker room to keep my mind occupied in other places," Shattenkirk said. 'The coaching change was something that helped me in a way and then focusing on turning this thing around here. That's my first priority, is not to worry about what's happening with me, it's what's happening with this team and I care a lot about these guys in the locker room. I don't want to show in any way shape or form that I'm not committed to what's going on here and make them think I'm not present in this locker room every game."
It's a reason why Shattenkirk, one of four assistant captains on the team along with Paul Stastny, Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko, is one of the locker room favorites.
"We've all heard the rumors or whatever, but he's been nothing but professional," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "I'm especially impressed with the way he's handled everything. It never comes up, he never brings it up. It's a tough situation to be on when starting the summer and the way you view these things."
Shattenkirk has always maintained his love for St. Louis and the Blues, who traded for him, Chris Stewart and a conditional second-round pick from the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 11, 2011 for 2006 No. 1 overall pick Erik Johnson, Jay McClement and a conditional first-round pick. But when asked if he'd prefer to remain with the Blues, Shattenkirk isn't looking too far ahead, but in the moment.
"It's tough," Shattenkirk said. "You don't know what the situation's going to be. It's hard for me ... I think right now, what I'm trying to focus on is right here and now, and it's tough for me to think about that. That's something that you have to think about once you're done playing for the season, and we'll cross that bridge when it comes. There's obviously other situations that are presenting themselves now and that's one that you kind of forget about sometimes."
Blues looking to gain consistency; Yeo communicates; Brodeur with goalies 2009 a season for new coach to draw on; Falcons or Patriots By LOU KORAC Alex Pietrangelo -- Boston University's own Kevin Shattenkirk -- Ryan Reaves -- ST.