Transcript from defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk's conference call after signing a one-year contract with the Lightning.
The emotions of the past few days, from the situation with the Rangers and now signing this contract with Tampa Bay. What's the past couple of days been like for you?
Emotional would be probably the best way to describe it. I think a bit of a rollercoaster. The situation with the Rangers was obviously something that was being talked about a little bit. It kind of happened at the final hour and that's when we found out. It was kind of a shock and a bit disappointing. I was pretty pissed off about it. But it's very reassuring to go almost 24 hours later and get a lot of phone calls, a lot of interest from teams, and obviously Tampa being one of them. As a player going through that, it obviously gives you a bit of a confidence boost when you get that much attention in such a short period of time.
New York was obviously somewhere you wanted to be when you went through to that UFA process. It didn't work out there, do you have a little chip on your shoulder right now?
Absolutely. I think I have a huge chip on my shoulder right now. I think obviously it didn't work out with injuries and performance and with the way the direction of the team kind of deteriorated from when I signed on July 1st. Talking with Coach Cooper and some of the players in Tampa and knowing what happened to them last year in the playoffs, I feel like we kind of share that mentality of playing with a chip on our shoulder. There's something for me to prove individually, but a big reason why I came here (Tampa) is because I know that they're looking to break through. They're a winning team but they haven't gotten to the final stage and won it yet. I know that those guys are hungry to do it. For me, that was something that I was looking for and very passionate about.
How much did conversations about your role with the team factor into these conversations as you made your decision?
That was a huge factor. I know the type of player that I am and the role that I kind of fit into on teams. Especially on a team like Tampa Bay, who is a winning team and they seem to have a lot of their roles filled. I felt like there was a position there for me to help the team out and a position that maybe they were seeking to fill and ticked off quite a few boxes on my end as well. This is obviously an important year for me to make sure that I show everyone that I'm back to my old self and can prove that I can be a player in this league again. In order for that to happen you want to put yourself in the best position and I think this is one of the best positions, by far, that I could be in as a player.
You mentioned talking to Cooper and the role [you'd play]. You played the power play most of your career, do you get a sense that that's something they're going to have you do here with the guys they already have available? I'm sure it's got to be exciting with Kucherov and Stamkos in that situation.
Yeah, we talked about it. The big thing that Coach Cooper said is obviously that nothing is guaranteed and obviously I wouldn't assume that it is. When you look at their unit, they're the number one power-play in the league for a reason. The players on that team are so special and I have a tremendous amount of respect for the guys who play on that first unit. They have a tremendous wealth of talent as well that kind of bleeds into the second pair as well, so I'm looking forward to getting out there and finding some chemistry with those guys and taking it all in. It's going to be a work in progress and again, I'm here to fill my role as best I can, do whatever the coaches ask of me, and play for a team that's looking to win a Stanley Cup. You have to be able to make sacrifices in order to do that and I'm definitely willing and able.
You said you wanted to show everyone you're back to your old self, what does that mean for you? Obviously there are point totals and stuff. What will it take for you to feel you've done that?
Like you said, the point totals and all that - that's what everyone will be looking at. For me, it's just a matter of gaining that respect again on the ice from other teams and my opponents. To feel like I'm more of a threat like I used to be and jumping in the rush more and adding offense to a team. I think I always have wanted to be a complete defenseman and make sure that I'm taking care of my responsibilities defensively. I know where my strengths are and playing for Tampa, it allows me to play to my strengths as best I can. I just want to make sure that everyone realizes that I am a threat again offensively and paired up with the talent on that team, it could be a dangerous combination.
Julien mentioned you had a whole summer of training and being healthy and I know injuries hurt you from the first day you were in New York, but how long did it take you and when did you finally feel like you were back to 100 percent healthy and effective the way you wanted to be?
It was probably right after the All-Star break this year when things started to click back in. I think I expected everything to kind of fall into place at the beginning of last season but it took awhile for me to get back up to the speed of the game and to feel confident mentally with my injury. Once I got halfway through the season, I started to realize that I was feeling good again. I think in the last 40 games of last season, I was able to produce like I normally do. The power play was something that I still was kind of wishing I had performed a little better on, but again, I think it just felt good mentally to get out there and feel like I could skate like I was capable of before and keep up with my opponents. I'm really excited that I was able to come into this summer and be able to go into the weight room and not worry about any injuries, not worry about any rehab, and be able to just completely power through training and get as strong and as physically fit as possible.
You said you talked to some of the Lightning players, obviously you have some Ranger connections. Who was it important for you to talk to, to kind of get a feel for this group?
Ryan McDonagh was probably the most important. He is someone who I got to chat with a bunch when I was making my decision to come to New York. We've known each other since we were in high school and playing with each other on different USA teams. He's someone who I really value his opinion on things. He's a very level-headed straight shooter. It was great to speak with him as a defenseman and hear how exciting it is to play in Tampa, how much he loved the community, and just the everyday life. The quality of life down there was something that you could hear the excitement and the energy in his voice when he talked about it. I think him coming from New York was another cherry on top in kind of comparing both towns and cities together. He was really my major point of reference. Marty St. Louis is another guy who's I train with in the gym in the summers and he obviously speaks very highly of Tampa. There's plenty of guys over the years that I've gotten a good feel from with how exciting the team is and how successful they've been in the past, it was something that really intrigued me.
You've been linked with Tampa for a few years now in terms of their interest. Did you ever feel close like you were going to have a chance to be here before?
I definitely was close to being part of the Lightning a few years back with my time coming to an end in St. Louis. There was a trade there on the table but I felt like I wanted to get to free agency and see what was available. It was all healthy and positive conversations with management there. I think it was something we all kind of understood that there was no bad blood and I'm happy that that line of communication stayed open and we were able to join up now. I think it's always been a team that was on my radar and a team that I would always have been excited to play for.
You said you were pissed off about how things ended with New York. Do you still feel it was the right decision? Would you have always wondered what it would have been like to go home if you hadn't done it?
Yeah, I'm not mad at the decision. Definitely not. I think a lot of these things have to be learning experiences and the ability to play in Madison Square Garden and play for the Rangers was a feeling like no other. I wouldn't want to trade that in for anything. It is what it is. Everyone has moments in their career where you have to pick yourself up and move on and be strong and confident in yourself. I think this is one of those moments. The reassuring thing was that there were a lot of teams that showed interest. In my mind, that's a very comforting feeling to know that people still believe in you. It gives you that confidence to go on and perform and try to get back to the player I was before.
You said a lot teams showed interest. Did the decision come down to the Lightning and somebody else? Or did the Lightning stand out from early on? How'd that work out?
There was probably six or seven teams that we were thinking of and it did get narrowed down to two teams. It was one of those things where you look at the intangibles and you look at the winning and the standard that's been set in Tampa and that's what appeals to me. It's been a couple years since I've been a part of that… I'm excited to be back in that sort of culture.