TARRYTOWN, N.Y. — Kevin Shattenkirk remains entranced in a childhood dream. The Rangers new defenseman, who agreed to a four-year, $26.6-million contract July 1, greeted members of the media and possible future Rangers at the team’s youth hockey camp at their training facility yesterday.
Prior to the introductory news conference, Shattenkirk posed with his new blue No. 22 jersey. Now, jersey presentations at news conferences are somewhat standard. But for Shattenkirk, who grew up a Rangers fan in New Rochelle, the moment carried more weight.
“It’s pretty surreal,” said Shattenkirk, 28, who grew up idolizing fellow defenseman Brian Leetch (who was No. 2). “I think that was the last thing that I expected was to have a jersey with my [old] number on it. I’m really privileged to play in the NHL every day. I don’t take it for granted, but to have it now with my favorite team really hits home.”
As if by fate, that jersey, or at least some semblance of Rangers merchandise, has been popping up a lot more since Shattenkirk decided to come home.
“I didn’t realize until I got signed how many people are Rangers fans,” he said. “You kind of start to notice if someone is wearing a hat or a T-shirt. I know they’re a lot around here. But before I signed, it was a little unknown to me, I guess.”
Shattenkirk, who spent the majority of his career in St. Louis before being dealt to Washington at last season’s trade deadline, had 13 goals and 43 assists in 80 games last season. In seven seasons with the Blues, Capitals and Colorado Avalanche, he had 68 goals and 230 assists.
According to reports, Shattenkirk passed up longer and higher-paying offers to join the Rangers, something that he said was not as simple as the “local boy goes home” story line.
“There were a lot of other deals on the table,” Shattenkirk said. “When it came down to it, it was having a chance to play at home for sure, but really getting on a team that I think is going to have a chance to win a Stanley Cup in the time frame that I’m signing for. I really didn’t find a better situation than here.”
The Rangers haven’t been to the Stanley Cup Final since losing to the Kings there in 2014, but Shattenkirk still believes they have as good a shot as anyone to challenge the Penguins in the Eastern Conference.
“I think we have that capability of playing with a team like that,” he said. “They have great goaltending, their defense is fast and can make plays, but I also think that we also have a little bit of an edge there. Up front, I’m sure we’re one of the fastest teams in the league.
“When you’re with the New York Rangers, their business is to win every year. They’re not a team that’s looking to go through a rebuilding period and it seems like every year they’re making moves necessary to make their team a championship team. In that respect, it’s hard to see what the window is here. Every year I’ve been in the league, they’ve been capable of winning the Stanley Cup.”
A member of the Rangers’ last Stanley Cup winner, Adam Graves, reached out to wish Shattenkirk well. As for his childhood hero? The connection hasn’t happened yet.
“I still have not met Brian Leech, but I think the opportunity to make that happen will come a little bit easier now,” Shattenkirk said.
Maybe they can compare jerseys.