ST. LOUIS — Kevin Shattenkirk realized a dream for many of his former teammates and closest friends was about to come to fruition and became genuinely happy for them.
Shattenkirk, defenseman for the Tampa Bay Lightning, watched as the Blues won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history last season and was happy for them, guys he went to war with on a nightly basis, guys like Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Jay Bouwmeester, Carl Gunnarsson, Robert Bortuzzo, Jake Allen, Jaden Schwartz, David Perron, Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko.
Shattenkirk, 30, would initially give them their space but would eventually reach out offering congratulations.
"Oh yeah. Absolutely," he said Tuesday before the Lightning faced the Blues. "I gave them their time obviously to sober up this summer. I think August 1st we all talked, but I still have a lot of my closest friends over there. I was thrilled for them and what they accomplished.
"I've always said if it's not going to be me, I want my friends to win it. I think just knowing the city as well and knowing the hunger for a Stanley Cup and what they were waiting for, for so long, you talk to a guy like Osh [T.J. Oshie] and all the guys who were here before that didn't do it here, but we know what it means to this city and I think in that respect, it gave us joy knowing that it finally happened."
Shattenkirk, who spent parts of seven of his 10-year NHL career with the Blues, or 425 regular-season games and another 47 Stanley Cup Playoff games, not only is happy for former teammates, but he's happy for himself.
It's been a rather tumultuous ride for the New Rochelle, New York native since he was traded to the Washington Capitals by the Blues on Feb. 27, 2017. His stay didn't last long with the Capitals. He finished the season out and was part of two rounds with Washington before going home, signing as a free agent with the New York Rangers and getting a four-year, $26.6 million contract.
Life was supposed to be good for Shattenkirk, who married his wife Deanna July 20, 2018 and the two have a four-month old son.
But in the world of business, life doesn't always seem right and doesn't seem fair. When the Rangers decided to buy out Shattenkirk's contract after two years in New York, it's a bitter pill to swallow, especially for veteran players.
Shattenkirk, who had a torn meniscus his first season with the Rangers in 2017-18 and played in just 46 games, was basically told me was no longer wanted. The Rangers were looking to erase payroll and get younger, rebuild so to speak.
"It wasn't a terrible feeling," Shattenkirk said. "It was hard for sure, but I've been part of some trades that maybe might have hurt a little bit more and I think it allows you to kind of just tap into this fire inside you that you want to prove people wrong, especially when it's that situation and not a trade. It's a chance to prove yourself really. That's how I've looked at it this year. I didn't want to hold a grudge for too long. I wanted to make sure I could get right back to work and back to business. It allowed me to get past it quickly. I really didn't have much time. It was August, so I had to get ready to focus on wherever I was going next. In a way, it was nice to kind of just move on and get ready to play."
The silver lining is Shattenkirk was a free agent again and knew he would have his pick of the litter of where he would land. Knowing the Rangers are responsible to pay out $1,483,333 in 2019-20, 2021-22 and 2022-23 as well as $6,083,333 in 2020-21, Shattenkirk's financial future was never in doubt. But he wanted to keep playing, and someone would come calling for his offensive-defenseman playmaking abilities.
Enter the Lightning.
"When you looked at the roster and it seemed from my standpoint, there are a lot of good players on the backend to play with and hopefully be partnered with," Shattenkirk said. "A chance to be back on a winning team and a championship-caliber team I think was what really excited me the most. When you're looking at trying to have a good year individually and kind of set yourself up to prove that you haven't lost a step a little bit, you want to put yourself in the best position to do so and I think the way this team plays, it kind of fits this team perfectly. Everything that they preach here is what I like to do and how I like to play, the confidence from the coaches when I spoke to them over the summer in knowing my game and knowing how I'd fit in, I think that really allowed me to feel comfortable with this decision."
Shattenkirk signed a one-year, $1.75 million contract with the Lightning, and he's off to a solid start with 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in 18 games playing top-pair minutes with Victor Hedman.
"I think it's been great," Shattenkirk said. "It's brought kind of a new energy into me and into my game. Obviously with what happened this summer, it was a tough pill to swallow at first, but the opportunity to join a team like this was something that really invigorated me and allowed me to just prepare and make sure I was ready because you're back on a championship-caliber team. As you know, you're fighting for your spot constantly. I think I wanted to make sure that I came in and I was ready to play and ready to fill a certain role on the team. Everything has definitely worked out well so far."
Shattenkirk, who has 364 points (80 goals, 284 assists) in 627 regular-season games, of which 258 points (59 goals, 199 assists) came with the Blues, chose the Lightning because he saw the talent level on this roster, one in which was 62-16-4 last season and won the Presidents' Trophy before shockingly being swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Now that his knee injury is a thing of the past, Shattenkirk feels healthy and reinvigorated.
"It's been a crazy ride," Shattenkirk said of leaving St. Louis. "Being here, I think I'm kind of back in a situation now similar to where I was here in that offensive, power-play role, and it's a good spot for me. I think I went out and tried to take a little bit more on. I was hoping to play with this guy [Ryan McDonagh] in New York for a little bit, but that didn't work out so well. I think just with the situation in New York and everything and how it fell into place, it was great at first and then obviously the whole team kind of got blown up. It was tough, but I think for me personally, after my injury, it took a little while for me to get back. But I really feel like I'm back to my old self this year. It's been nice."
Shattenkirk is counting on a solid season with the hopes of banking another contract in the summer. He'd love nothing more than to accomplish what his former Blues teammates were able to do last season. It's what helps drive the passion, the hunger to reach for the top, because there was a part of Shattenkirk that wished he was still with the Blues and accomplished what they did knowing he felt there were some missed opportunities here with perhaps better rosters that underachieved.
"Of course. You look at the team and you have a lot of your close friends there, any time you've gone through those years where you maybe felt like you could have done it and you didn't do it with that group of guys, you're hungry for the next one and you want to do it," Shattenkirk said. "I think it's something that's going on here in our locker room. For me, it's fun to be a part of that and I know I'm the new guy, but I've had my struggles in the playoffs too. I want to break through as well. It's a bit of a hard thing to see. You feel like you were here for a lot of good years and chances to win it, but it just goes to show how hard it is to do."