With Shattenkirk Gone, Who Will the Blues Replace Him With?

Jan 26, 2017; Saint Paul, MN, USA; St Louis Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo (41) shoots in the first period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 26, 2017; Saint Paul, MN, USA; St Louis Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo (41) shoots in the first period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /

The Blues trading Kevin Shattenkirk has basically been a foregone conclusion for the past year, but now the team is faced with the question no one wanted to ask–who replaces him?

After a year of speculation, rumors, and failed trade attempts, the St. Louis Blues finally traded Kevin Shattenkirk on Monday night, dealing the star defenseman to the Washington Capitals along with goalie Pheonix Copley for a first-round pick, a conditional second-rounder, center Zach Sanford and AHL forward Brad Malone.

While there’s been plenty of discussion about who the Blues would deal Shattenkirk to and what they’d get back in return, there’s never really been much talk about who they’d replace him with. He’s a former All-Star who has the fourth-points points in the league among defensemen this season, and he’s an elite power play quarterback. Those types of players don’t grow on trees, and he won’t be easy to replace.

The Blues have a multitude of candidates to replace him in the lineup, and they might be best served to look at a few different players in his spot over the remainder of the season. Since they’re battling to even get into the playoffs at this point, they’re basically throwing darts at the wall in terms of being competitive, so there’s no harm in trying out different combinations and seeing what happens. There are several very different directions that the Blues could go in terms of adjusting their style to compensate for Shattenkirk’s loss, though.

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The most obvious solution would be to start using both Carl Gunnarsson and Robert Bortuzzo on a consistent basis. The two injury-prone defensemen have been rotating games lately, which seems to have worked well for the Blues in terms of managing both players’ workloads, but since both players are signed through the 2018-19 season, it’d probably make sense to give them more consistent playing time than they’re currently getting.

With that said, inserting Bortuzzo or Gunnarsson into the lineup to replace Shattenkirk would represent a major offensive downgrade for the Blues. While Colton Parayko is probably capable of producing more with extended minutes and more time on the power play, he’s not going to singlehandedly replace Shattenkirk’s offensive production. With 42 points in 61 games, Shattenkirk has more points this season than Parayko (28 points in 61 games), Gunnarsson (four in 39), and Bortuzzo (three in 23) have combined this season.

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There are a couple guys currently playing for the AHL Chicago Wolves who have the potential to truly fill Shattenkirk’s role in the lineup, even though they’re both very young and inexperienced and will undoubtedly go through growing pains as they get acclimated to the NHL.

20-year-old Vince Dunn seems to have the higher ceiling of the duo, but he has less than a year of pro experience and surely has a while to go before he reaches his prime. Dunn leads Wolves defensemen with 32 points (11 goals and 21 assists) in 53 games this season, and he has a very impressive plus-11 rating. Dunn played in the AHL All-Star Game earlier this month, an impressive accomplishment for a player who made his AHL debut in October.

It’s safe to say that Dunn plays with an edge, and that may be just what the Blues need. But it’s also worth wondering whether GM Doug Armstrong feels a need to get the hotheadedness out of the 20-year-old before he calls him up to the NHL, especially after the incident that occurred Saturday night:

The other offensive defenseman who could be a candidate to replace Shattenkirk is 2012 first-rounder Jordan Schmaltz, who is currently in his second season with the Wolves and still hasn’t played in an NHL game. The 23-year-old was impressive during training camp and seemed to have an outside shot at making the team, but he suffered an injury shortly before the start of the regular season and didn’t get into the Wolves’ lineup until mid-November. He has only three goals this season, but he leads Wolves defensemen with 22 points in 42 games.

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  • Like Shattenkirk, Schmaltz is a righthanded shooter–as opposed to Dunn, who has a lefty shot–so he’d make more sense as a replacement right now. He’s also three years older than Dunn, and while his ceiling might not be quite as high, he seems to be closer to a finished product at this point.

    If the Blues simply opt to increase the playing time of Bortuzzo and Gunnarsson, it’s likely that either Petteri Lindbohm or Chris Butler will get the call up from Chicago to be the Blues’ seventh defenseman.

    The 23-year-old Lindbohm is a guy that the Blues seemingly have been waiting on to take the next step for quite a while now, but he hasn’t stepped up and forced his way into a role. He’s an aggressive defensive defenseman who fits best on a third pairing, but he’s shown the ability to hold his own at the NHL level.

    He played five games with the Blues back in November, mostly playing alongside Colton Parayko and generally performing very well, aside from a November 12 loss to the Blue Jackets where the Blues lost 8-4 and the entire team played poorly. Lindbohm, however, can safely be classified at this point as a player who is not going to replace Shattenkirk from an offensive standpoint. He has just three points (two goals and an assist) in 38 NHL games, all of which came during 2014-15, his rookie season.

    St. Louis Blues
    St. Louis Blues /

    St. Louis Blues

    The 30-year-old Butler, a St. Louis native, is also a guy who has shown himself to be reliable in the NHL when called upon. In 38 games with the Blues over the previous two seasons, Butler had three goals and nine assists with a plus-7 rating. He doesn’t really distinguish himself in any particular area, though, and his ceiling seems to be that of a seventh defenseman who provides protection for a firmly-entrenched top six.

    There’s also a possibility that the Blues could sign veteran defenseman James Wisniewski to an NHL contract and take a flyer on him for the remainder of 2016-17. Wisniewski, who has collected 51 points in two separate seasons–most recently in 2013-14 for the Columbus Blue Jackets–recently signed an AHL deal with the Wolves and has two goals and two assists over his first five games. He just turned 33 years old, though, so he wouldn’t seem to have too much value to the Blues beyond this season, and they’d have to trade another player to make room for him, as they already have the maximum 50 players under contract.

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    Of course, the Blues also have about 40 hours remaining to orchestrate a trade for another defenseman. With all the work they’ve put into establishing defensive depth within the organization, that’d be a rather odd decision, but if they truly plan on contending for the Stanley Cup in 2016-17–and the Shattenkirk trade is a pretty solid indication that they don’t–then maybe they’ll have other ideas.