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Shattenkirk motivated to rebound, contribute to Rangers rebuild

Defenseman, coming off subpar season, excited about additions of Trouba, Kakko

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

NEW YORK -- Kevin Shattenkirk knows this season didn't go as planned, either personally or for the New York Rangers as a whole.

But the 30-year-old is eager to rebound and be the player who had 40 points or more in four consecutive seasons (2013-17) with the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals before signing a four-year contract with the Rangers on July 1, 2017.

"It's been a fun couple of months to kind of get back in the gym. I think I'm kind of hungrier than ever after last season," said Shattenkirk, a defenseman who scored two goals in 73 games this season after spending last summer recovering from knee surgery. "The ability to start training without any injuries nagging me, that's amazing. Last summer, I was so focused on rehab.

"But I think the excitement around our team over the last month or two, it drives you as a player. We're going to be better a lot sooner than people think. That always makes it fun."

Shattenkirk is also excited to work with defenseman Jacob Trouba, whom the Rangers acquired from the Winnipeg Jets on Monday for defenseman Neil Pionk and a first-round pick (No. 20) at the 2019 NHL Draft. Trouba, 25, had an NHL career-high 50 points (eight goals, 42 assists) in 82 games for the Jets this season.

"I think it drives me a little bit," Shattenkirk said. "He's someone who I've honestly watched for a long time and got to play against him in my years in St. Louis. I think very highly of him. Great skater, very physical. Just a guy you want on your team.

"It's going to be fun for me to have him there and pushing me to be a better player. Maybe you gain a little relief in places and get some better matchups."

Video: NYI@NYR: Shattenkirk picks the corner through traffic

That would likely only benefit Shattenkirk, who was expected to provide a major boost to New York's defense at the time of his signing. As for the pressure of playing at home (Shattenkirk is a native of New Rochelle, New York), he said it has not been more difficult than anticipated.

The Rangers (32-36-14) missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a second straight season after general manager Jeff Gorton began a full-blown rebuild prior to the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline. After acquiring Trouba, they selected right wing Kappo Kakko with the No. 2 pick at the 2019 NHL Draft on Friday.

"I think it's everything I expected it to be," said Shattenkirk, who has seven goals and 44 assists in 119 games with New York. "I don't think we could've predicted the way that things went down, and that's probably been the tougher side of things, the turn the organization made. But it needed to be done.

"It was a sting at first, but now things look so bright and it's fun to be a part of something that's being built from the ground up."

And with plenty of cap space available, players such as left wing Artemi Panarin and center Matt Duchene of the Columbus Blue Jackets are expected to be available as unrestricted free agents July 1. Should either or both sign with the Rangers, it would significantly boost goalie Henrik Lundqvist's pursuit of what has been an elusive Stanley Cup championship. Lundqvist turned 37 on March 2.

"I think for Hank, the past couple of years have been tough on him," Shattenkirk said. "He's been in an organization where he's had a chance to win a Cup really from the moment he started. He hasn't lost his competitive nature. All the man wants to do is win, and you see that emotion when he plays.

"Everything that's done here is for the betterment of the organization, and he's fallen in line with that. But I think he's ready to win. He knows his window is where it is and we all want to make sure that we're putting the best effort out there for a guy like him, a guy like (defenseman) Marc Staal, whose been here for so long and poured so much into this team."

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