The New York Rangers highlighted a summer of change by signing smooth-skating free agent Kevin Shattenkirk to a four-year, $26.6 million contract to calm the waters following the offseason departure of respected defenseman Dan Girardi. Shattenkirk will make his official debut on Broadway as the Rangers open their 2017-18 season against the visiting Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.
“I want to perform. I want to be the guy who can come in here and live up to the hype,” the New Rochelle (N.Y.) native told the New York Daily News. Shattenkirk, who collected a career-high 56 points last season with St. Louis and Washington, has recorded at least 25 power-play points in each of his past four seasons and should form a potent defensive pairing with captain Ryan McDonagh (career-high 15 power-play points in 2016-17). While New York saw its season end with a second-round loss to upstart Ottawa, Colorado’s campaign effectively ended shortly after it began and resulted with the fewest points (48) of any NHL team in the salary cap era. The Avalanche finished last in the league in goals per game (2.01), goals allowed (3.37), power-play efficiency (12.6) and second to last on the penalty kill (77.3).
TV: 7 p.m. ET, Altitude (Colorado), MSG (New York)
ABOUT THE AVALANCHE (2016-17: 22-56-4, 7th in Central Division): Potential trade pieces Matt Duchene and captain Gabriel Landeskog remained with the club during last year’s dismal campaign, although they likely will be hot topics on the rumor mill prior to this season’s trade deadline. Mikko Rantanen’s 20 goals led the way for Colorado, which needs more on the offensive front from former top overall picks Nathan MacKinnon (team-best 37 assists, 53 points) and Nail Yakupov (three goals) as well as second-overall selection Landeskog (18 goals). Colin Wilson, who was the seventh overall pick in 2008, has just one 20-goal season in his career. Tyson Jost, who was the club’s first-round pick in 2016, is aiming to take a big step forward after scoring one goal in just six games last season.
ABOUT THE RANGERS (2016-17: 48-28-6, 4th in Metropolitan Division): New York boasts substantial depth as opposed to individual stars on offense, with Chris Kreider (club-high 28 goals), Mats Zuccarello (team-leading 44 assists, 59 points), Kevin Hayes (49 points) and Mika Zibanejad (37 points). The 33-year-old Rick Nash (23 goals) enters the final season of a four-year deal that pays the him $7.8 million, second only to Henrik Lundqvist. The former Vezina Trophy winner has seen his goals-against average rise and his save percentage go down in each of the last past three seasons. Offseason acquisition Ondrej Pavelec will serve as Lundqvist’s backup after Antti Raanta and top-line center Derek Stepan were shuffled to Arizona for the seventh overall pick in the 2017 draft (center Lias Andersson) and defensive prospect Anthony DeAngelo.
1. Colorado’s former Vezina Trophy finalist Semyon Varlamov, who is returning from a hip surgery, will be put to the test in short order behind a leaky defense that yielded a league-worst 276 goals.
2. Shattenkirk was selected with the 14th overall pick of the 2007 draft by the Avalanche, with whom he played in 46 games during the 2010-11 season.
3. Colorado claimed former Dallas D Patrik Nemeth on waivers Tuesday.
PREDICTION: Rangers 5, Avalanche 1