TORONTO (June 16) — He’s a right–handed shot with offensive flair and he’d be a No. 1 or 2 defensemen on many teams in the National Hockey League. But, is Kevin Shattenkirk a proper fit for the Maple Leafs?
According to an Eastern Conference source, the St. Louis Blues have talked to “a handful” of teams — including Toronto, Philadelphia and Edmonton — about the 27–year–old veteran. Shattenkirk has been in the NHL since 2010–11 with Colorado. He scored a career–high 14 goals for St. Louis this past season and registered 44 points in 72 games. Two seasons ago (2014–15), he was shaping up as a Norris Trophy candidate with 44 points in early–February when he injured an abdominal muscle that required surgery. It kept him out of 26 games, but he responded with eight assists in six playoff matches against Minnesota.
As part of the Big 3 on defense for St. Louis — with Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester — Shattenkirk could be expendable. He is slated to become an unrestricted free agent after next season when his four–year, $17–million contract expires. Pietrangelo is locked up with a reasonable $6.5–million cap hit through the 2019–20 season. Bouwmeester, now 32, will consume $5.4 million of cap space for the next three seasons. Ex–Leaf Carl Gunnarsson also has three years remaining with a $2.9–million cap hit. With wingers Jaden Schwartz and Troy Brouwer up for renewal this summer, it isn’t likely the Blues can afford to retain captain David Backes, also an unrestricted free agent. After next season, both St. Louis goalies (Brian Elliott, Jake Allen) and forward Alex Steen, 32, will be without contracts. So, something has to give, economically.
KEVIN SHATTENKIRK HAS BEEN A BLUE–LINE MAINSTAY IN ST. LOUIS. DOUG PENSINGER/GETTY IMAGES
The Maple Leafs, at this time, do not have a monumental cap issue and are clearly in the market for a front–line defenseman. Such commodities, however, are always in short supply. At 27, Shattenkirk is entering his prime in the NHL. Barring an injury next season that threatens his career, he’ll be looking at roughly $30 million over five years; perhaps more, if he has a breakout season offensively. With slim pickings among UFA defensemen this summer, the Maple Leafs could be rather intrigued by Shattenkirk.
Toronto is hardly loaded on the blue–line with an incumbent top–four of Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, Matt Hunwick and Martin Marincin. On May 2 of this year, the Leafs signed Nikita Zaitzev from Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League and have high expectation for the mobile, 24–year–old. Zaitzev and Frank Corrado are the lone right–handed–shooting defensemen on the roster, and Corrado isn’t likely to be more than a journeyman. As such, Shattenkirk would add a key element from the starboard side. Connor Carrick, Viktor Loov, Rinat Valiev and Stuart Percy also saw action on the Maple Leafs blue–line last season, but none figure to be front–line players in the NHL. Travis Dermott, a second–round pick last summer from the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League, has reasonable upside as a two–way defender.
What would St. Louis be seeking from Toronto for Shattenkirk? Likely another center, if Backes signs elsewhere. Paul Stastny and dynamic youngster Robby Fabbri lead the Blues up the middle, with Patrik Berglund, 28, in the No. 3 slot. Berglund had shoulder surgery and missed half of the 2015–16 schedule.
The Leafs could easily make Nazem Kadri the centerpiece of a trade for Shattenkirk. Kadri is locked into a five–year deal with a manageable $4.5–million cap hit. Auston Matthews is on the way via the 2016 draft. Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Frederik Gauthier and Sam Carrick are also natural centers (though Marner played right–wing for much of last season in London of the OHL). With veterans Tyler Bozak, Colin Greening, Brooks Laich and restricted free agent Peter Holland, the Leafs are in fairly good shape up the middle. Were Steven Stamkos to arrive as a UFA (don’t hold your breath), the club would be loaded.
NAZEM KADRI IS UNDER CONTRACT THROUGH THE 2020–21 NHL SEASON. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Toronto has four picks (Nos. 1, 30, 31 and 57) in the first two rounds of this year’s draft. It could sacrifice No. 30 to the Blues along with Kadri and perhaps one of its minor–league rearguards (Percy, Loov, Valiev). Shattenkirk, even if not quite the caliber of blue–liner as Pietrangelo, Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Kris Letang or P.K. Subban, would be a wonderful acquisition.
But, the Leafs will have to out–maneuver several other teams to make it happen.
MR. HOCKEY LAID TO REST
Gordie Howe’s funeral took place on Wednesday afternoon at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit — the city in which he became hockey’s biggest star in the 1950’s. The cathedral was packed with family, friends and NHL colleagues (past and present). Howe, known as Mr. Hockey, died last Friday morning at 88 years of age. Having contracted pneumonia, the Hall–of–Fame winger, according to son, Murray, lost his desire to eat and drink. “It was clear he was no longer having fun,” Murray Howe told The Canadian Press. “Dad always said ‘if it’s not fun, it’s time to do something else.’ So, we filled his final days by surrounding him with friends and family. He knew he was loved.”
GORDIE HOWE’S SONS MARTY (LEFT) AND MARK — WITH WHOM HE PLAYED IN THE OLD WORLD HOCKEY ASSOCIATION — LED PALL–BEARERS AT WEDNESDAY’S FUNERAL. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Sportsnet did a typically thorough job of televising the funeral here in Canada. Some TV images:
HOWE’S FLOWER–DRAPED COFFIN RESTS IN THE CATHEDRAL OF THE MOST BLESSED SACRAMENT.
MARK HOWE GLANCES AT TV CAMERA AS HE AND BROTHER MARTY LISTEN TO EULOGY. GORDIE’S LEFT–WINGER ON DETROIT’S FAMED “PRODUCTION LINE” — TED LINDSAY — WAS ALSO ON HAND.
DETROIT STAR PAVEL DATSYUK (LEFT) AND EX–WINGS COACH MIKE BABCOCK DURING THE SERVICE.
WAYNE GRETZKY (RIGHT) WAS FLANKED BY WIFE JANET AND FATHER WALTER.
TORONTO’S REVAMPED PLAYPEN
BMO Field, on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition, will host an outdoor NHL game on Jan. 1 between the Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings. Owned by the City of Toronto and managed by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, it has been — since 2007 — home to Toronto F.C. of Major League Soccer. This summer, it welcomes a second tenant — the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.
BMO will be the Argos’ fourth home, after the University of Toronto’s Varsity Stadium (1916 to 1958); CNE (later Exhibition) Stadium (1959 to 1988) and Rogers Centre (formerly SkyDome: 1989 to 2015). It has a natural–grass playing field — a first for the Argos since 1971. It also provides a traditional football layout, which Argonaut fans haven’t enjoyed since the end of the 1974 CFL season, when the 12,000–seat south bleacher at the CNE was demolished to accommodate baseball (the Toronto Blue Jays arrived in 1977).
The Argos played their first–ever game at BMO Field last Saturday afternoon — a 25–16 exhibition conquest of the Hamilton Tiger–Cats. The regular–season opener is one week from tonight (June 23), also against Hamilton. I attended Saturday’s historic match with my son, Shane, and my trusty NIKON. To provide a balanced view, I climbed all over the darned stadium with my camera. These were the results:
A SECOND DECK HAS BEEN ADDED TO THE EAST STANDS, ENLARGING CAPACITY TO 25,600 FOR FOOTBALL. ARGOS QUARTERBACK RICKY RAY SHOOK HANDS WITH THE REFEREE.
THE FIRST KICKOFF AND FIRST KICKOFF RETURN IN BMO FIELD HISTORY.
VIEW FROM THE WEST STANDS. A LINE OF CONDOMINIUMS SITS JUST NORTH OF THE CNE.
FROM THE SOUTH END ZONE: WEST STANDS AND PRESS BOX (LEFT). THE FIELD AND EAST STANDS.
THIS SECOND–QUARTER HEAVE BY ANTHONY McCLUNG (9) RESULTED IN A LONG TD FOR HAMILTON.
FROM THE TOP ROW OF THE SECOND DECK IN THE WEST STANDS: FOOTBALL IN MINIATURE.
TRUDGING TO THE EXTREME SOUTHEAST CORNER OF THE SECOND DECK (TOP): THE PLASTIC ORANGE SEATS AND A VIEW OVER–TOP OF LAKE ONTARIO AND BILLY BISHOP (TORONTO ISLAND) AIRPORT. TURNING AROUND (BOTTOM) PROVIDED A PANORAMA OF THE PLAYING FIELD.
ONTARIO PLACE FROM THE TOP SOUTHEAST CORNER OF BMO FIELD.
BEHIND THE EAST STANDS: THE C.N. TOWER (LEFT) AND PRINCES’ GATES ENTRANCE TO THE CNE.
TWO MORE VIEWS OF LAKE ONTARIO ON A PERFECT, LATE–SPRING AFTERNOON.
THE ARGONAUT CHEERLEADERS WERE FLIPPING AND BALANCING.
EYES NORTH FOR TORONTO WIDE RECEIVER KENNY SHAW (89).
BEYOND THE NORTHEAST STANDS IS RICOH COLISEUM, HOME OF THE AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE TORONTO MARLIES, AND ADVERTISING — ON THIS DAY — A PARTY FOR THE 2016 NHL DRAFT.
VIDEO–SCOREBOARD IN THE NORTH END ZONE AND THE NATURAL–GRASS PLAYING FIELD.
LATE–AFTERNOON SHADOWS AT THE ARGO BENCH (HEAD COACH SCOTT MILANOVICH IN WHITE CAP).
LEAVING THE STADIUM LATE IN THE FOURTH QUARTER (ABOVE), THE LOWER PART OF THE EAST GRANDSTAND WAS BATHED IN SUNLIGHT. THE WEST STANDS (BELOW) WERE IN THE SHADE.
OUTSIDE THE EAST GRANDSTAND (LEFT); OUTSIDE RICOH COLISEUM (RIGHT).
And, for no particular reason, I end today with three of my best sky photos from the past couple of weeks:
SUNRISE OVER EAST TORONTO.
SUNSET THROUGH A REMARKABLE MAZE OF CLOUD.
THIS PHOTO OF A FRIGHTENING AFTERNOON SKY IN MIDTOWN TORONTO — JUNE 6 — HAS MORE THAN 13,000 VIEWS ON THE WEATHER NETWORK’S WEBSITE.