Kevin Shattenkirk’s two-year tenure with the Rangers ended badly, with the 30-year-old defenseman getting bought out of his contract this summer. But the New Rochelle native, who ended up in Tampa Bay, (where all old Rangers defensemen seem to go) would do it all again, if he had the chance.
“There’s no regrets,’’ said Shattenkirk, who was back at the Garden Tuesday for the first time since the Rangers terminated the four-year, $26.6 million deal he signed in 2017, with two years left on it.
“I wouldn’t take anything back,’’ he said. “You know, it was a dream. And, you know, I think for -- there’s a lot of things that will probably eat away at me a little bit over the course of the two years, but I still got to do it.’’
A lifelong Rangers fan who played youth hockey at Rye Playland, where the Rangers practiced when he was a kid, Shattenkirk suffered a knee injury early in his first season with the team that ruined his first season and his second. So, when the Rangers needed to shed salary after the summer free agent signings of Artemi Panarin and Jacob Trouba, Shattenkirk was the one the team chose to sacrifice to get under the salary cap.
But he’s adjusted to Tampa Bay, where, “it’s 91 and sunny,’’ and where traffic, he said, is “less chaotic.’’ On the ice, he’s been productive early on, putting up four goals and three assists in the Lightning’s first 10 games. He said he’s not a better player now than he was in New York; he’s just healthier.
“I think in terms of being a better hockey player, I’m just, you know, I’m more confident,’’ he said. “I think towards the end of last year, I got more confident with my game…. I think, regardless of, You know, how the summer went, I think I was prepared to come here -- and in New York -- and have a big season.’’
Dan Girardi, the former Rangers and Lightning defenseman who announced his retirement earlier this season, was honored by the team and dropped the ceremonial first puck… Marc Staal and Greg McKegg were the Rangers’ scratches.
Staal, the second-most senior Ranger, behind goaltender Henrick Lundqvist, was left out of the lineup for the game at Madison Square Garden. Taking his place in the lineup is 21-year-old rookie Ryan Lindgren, who was called up from AHL Hartford on Monday.
Staal, 32, scored the first goal of the season for the Rangers, and has that one goal, no assists and six penalty minutes in nine games. His plus/minus rating is even, but he has been a favorite whipping boy for Rangers fans on social media. His rating in advanced statistics is generally poor.
Staal, the Rangers’ first-round pick in 2005, has played 849 career games, scoring 41 goals, with 136 assists and 422 penalty minutes.