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Shattenkirk hoping for big things with hometown Rangers

Defenseman signed four-year contract for chance to win Stanley Cup

by Jon Lane @JonLaneNHL / Staff Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The reasons defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk signed a four-year, $26.6 million contract on July 1 to play for the New York Rangers are plentiful. There was the chance to play near his native New Rochelle, New York, about a half hour from Madison Square Garden.

The homecoming story is heartwarming, but the time is approaching when Shattenkirk and the Rangers will be focused on the business of winning, a challenge that will be harder this season.

Including Shattenkirk, 28, there are new faces at defenseman and questions regarding depth at center that need to be answered. The Rangers will also have to again navigate the Metropolitan Division, which last season boasted a repeat Stanley Cup champion (Pittsburgh Penguins), a repeat Presidents' Trophy winner (Washington Capitals), three teams with at least 100 points (Capitals, Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets), and five that won at least 40 games.

Coming home is nice, but Shattenkirk also chose the Rangers because he believes they can measure up to the Penguins and anyone else.

"I think we have that capability of playing with a team like that," Shattenkirk said Tuesday. "We have great goaltending (Henrik Lundqvist). Our defense is fast and we can make plays, but I also think we have a little bit of edge as well. Up front, I'm sure we're one of the fastest teams in the League. You look at how Pittsburgh is built, and that's the way that they've won. We have some great depth on our team, and I think that's what it really comes down to at that point of the season: How deep are you?

"It's a grind, because you're not only battling against Pittsburgh. Columbus has shown they're a force to be reckoned with … Washington … it's tough, but I think we are right on the cusp of making something big happen here."

Video: Kevin Shattenkirk on joining the New York Rangers

Time, though, could be getting short. A perception exists that the Rangers' window to win the Cup for the first time since 1994 is rapidly closing and they've made moves to stay ahead of the curve since their six-game loss to the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Second Round. Core veterans -- center Derek Stepan (traded to the Arizona Coyotes) and defenseman Dan Girardi (buyout) -- are gone. One building block, center Oscar Lindberg, was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft on June 21. Defenseman Kevin Klein retired from the NHL on July 7 and signed a one-year contract with the ZSC Lions in Switzerland one week later. And Lundqvist, 35, isn't getting any younger.

"I think everyone's probably all going to judge [the window] based on Lundqvist, and everyone is talking about, 'Well, how long does he have left?'" Shattenkirk said. "We have a lot of young players on this team, though, to counterbalance that.

"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. It seems like every year they're making the moves necessary to make their team a championship team. In that respect, it's kind of hard to see what the window is here. Every year I've been in the League they've been capable of winning a Stanley Cup."

Shattenkirk, who had 56 points (13 goals, 43 assists) in 80 games with the Capitals and St. Louis Blues last season, has yet to play in the Cup Final, though he came close when the Blues advanced to the Western Conference Final in 2016. He had his suitors, offering more money and term, as a free agent, but insisted the Rangers provide the best opportunity to win.

"Putting the fact of playing at home aside, it came down to who's the better team, which team is ready to win," Shattenkirk said. "That was probably the priority on my list. It was a matter of 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 timeframe that I'm signing for. I really didn't find a better situation than here."

Video: WSH@PIT, Gm3: Shattenkirk nets PPG for OT win

For the next four years (and perhaps beyond), Shattenkirk has his opportunity. There will be perks, and the pressure of playing in one's backyard, but he's eager to embrace it and enjoy it.

"Having that luxury and having that kind of constant pressure is good," Shattenkirk said. "I kind of welcome that. It's only going to make me grow as a player and learn to handle that adversity when things maybe aren't going so well. It's going to happen, but you just have to roll with the punches, and I'm looking forward to hopefully raising my game to be as consistent as possible."

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