The St. Louis Blues on Thursday showed just how much value they place on defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, signing the restricted free agent to a four-year, $17 million contract extension.
"Obviously I'm on cloud nine right now, this is a great opportunity for me," Shattenkirk said. "To have the type of commitment that the Blues made and the faith that they have in me to perform and showing it in this way is pretty special. It really didn't take too long. We both wanted to get something done and I think there was a deal to be had the whole way through."
The 24-year-old former Boston University standout joined the Blues in a February 2011 trade from Colorado. He came to St. Louis as what at the time seemed additional depth on defense since the deal included high-scoring winger Chris Stewart.
Shattenkirk on Thursday he recalled his first meeting with Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong.
"From my very first meeting with 'Army,' where he sat me down and said 'We weren't going to make this trade unless you were involved' ... from that moment on I knew how much he valued me and what he thought of me as a player. It's just made it easier to play in St. Louis when you know the coaches and management have that confidence and faith in you to be an elite player."
The Blues also have signed center Patrik Berglund and Shattenkirk and are still looking to make deals with restricted free agents Alex Pietrangelo and Chris Stewart.
"What Kevin has done, which made this an easier deal for us, is he's probably been the most consistent player we've had in our organization," Armstrong said, referring to Shattenkirk's first three years with the franchise. "He's been a very consistent offensive producer. His first three years he's been in the top 25 in scoring among defensemen each year, which is a testament to how he came into the league and his consistency. We think he's just scratching the surface of how good of a player he can be."
Shattenkirk had five goals and 23 points in 48 games last season and in 201 career games has 23 goals and 109 points.
"Now we have to work together to move his game past an offensive defenseman and round that into someone that can play 23 to 25 minutes over time, kill penalties, play on the power play and play 5-on-5," Armstrong said. "This contract is an indication that we believe that can be achieved. The offense seems to be something that comes natural."
Throughout his career, Shattenkirk has faced questions about his size (5-foot-11-inches, 207 pounds) and ability to play on the defensive side of the puck.
"I know my offensive abilities come a little more naturally and defensively, especially as a smaller-sized defenseman, is where I need to keep getting more experience," he said. "I tried to really work on that every year and it comes from a lot of experience, which luckily I'm able to get night-in and night -out."
Shattenkirk said he isn't content with his current game and wants to keep evolving into a more complete player.
"It comes from challenging yourself every night," he said. "I think I set pretty high goals for myself to be the best defenseman on the team. We have a lot of great defenseman on the team, but the only way you can get better is to strive to be the best defenseman."
The Blues still need to sign Pietrangelo, in line to receive an even larger deal than Shattenkirk's. The pair join Barret Jackman, Jay Bouwmeester and Roman Polak to give the Blues one of the deepest defense units in the NHL.
"Alex has gained a lot of attention, but Kevin really doesn't need to take a back seat to anyone as far as what he accomplished," Armstrong said.
The Blues also re-signed former No. 1 draft pick Ian Cole and are negotiating with free agents Kris Russell and Jordan Leopold.
"We have a tremendous blue line," Shattenkirk said. "I really believe that we have probably one of the best defensive corps in the league. We just have a great collection of players who can do it all."
Shattenkirk said he felt the Blues took an important step this season despite the first-round playoff loss to the Kings after winning the first two games of the series.
"Hats off to the Kings because they showed their experience and how winning Stanley Cups can give you that confidence that it's never over," Shattenkirk said. "It was another growing step for us. We were better in the playoffs this year than we were two years ago and for us, that's what we have to hold onto."