Capitals Acquire Kevin Shattenkirk from the Blues
The Washington Capitals have acquired defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and goalie Pheonix Copley from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for a first-round pick in 2017, a conditional second-round pick in 2018 and minor-league forwards Zach Ranford and Brad Malone. The Blues will also retain 39 percent of Shattenkirk’s $4.25 million cap hit for this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There was some recent speculation claiming the Capitals made inquiries about Shattenkirk, but this move still comes as a surprise. Most of the trade chatter linked the 28-year-old blueliner to the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins or Toronto Maple Leafs.
It’s apparent that Capitals GM Brian MacLellan is pulling out all the stops in order to bolster his club’s chances of winning the Stanley Cup this year. The Caps are already the top team in the NHL standings. Acquiring the best available player before the trade deadline could be what it takes to finally put them over the top.
Shattenkirk is a skilled, mobile defenseman who should be a good fit with an already powerful Capitals offense. He’s on track for over 55 points this season. A right-handed shot, he joins fellow righties John Carlson and Matt Niskanen on the Washington blueline. That’s a lot of firepower coming from their defense corps, especially in power-play situations.
This move could also have been prompted by concerns over the status of Niskanen and Brooks Oprik. Both are listed as day-to-day with lower-body injuries. They’re not expected to be sidelined long term, but MacLellan likely wants to ensure he’s got the depth to handle potential injuries to key defensemen down the stretch and in the postseason.
While some might question giving up a first-rounder as part of a package for a rental defenseman, the Capitals first-round pick in this year’s draft will be near the bottom of that round. It must also be remembered that this year’s draft isn’t considered a deep one, making it easier for MacLellan to take this risk.
Unlike most sellers, the Blues remain very much in the Western Conference playoff picture. But with Shattenkirk eligible for unrestricted free agency in July, they couldn’t risk losing him for nothing to free agency as they did last summer with David Backes and Troy Brouwer.
In the meantime, this return doesn’t make an immediate positive impact on the Blues roster. It’ll be interesting to see how they perform over the remainder of this season without Shattenkirk, who was their top-scoring blueliner.
GM Doug Armstrong could face criticism for not getting a better return. Given Shattenkirk’s reported unwillingness to accept a sign-and-trade scenario, however, Armstrong was stuck with shopping him as a rental player, which probably left the Blues with limited options. With the deadline fast approaching, this was probably the best deal he could find. He’ll hope to find a decent player with one of those two picks.