So the Washington Capitals emerged from the trade deadline rumors fog Monday evening, grabbing the biggest name on the market: St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
It’s a move that signals a huge change in the Eastern Conference playoff race. And it has ramifications for the Blues’ future, as well. Here’s some quick takeaways as we digest the biggest move of the 2017 NHL trade deadline.
Washington is the team to beat in the Eastern Conference
All apologies to the defending champion Penguins, but the Capitals took a major step ahead of them Monday night.
And if reports are to be believed, the two Eastern powerhouses were neck-and-neck in the Shattenkirk sweepstakes.
Sounds like it never got close between Penguins and Blues regarding a Shattenkirk deal. High price kept Pittsburgh out of it.— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) February 28, 2017
Part of it, of course, is that the Penguins just traded for Ron Hainsey. If they hadn’t, I wonder if they’d be more willing to part with assets in a Shattenkirk deal.
But they backed out knowing their rival would become the strongest team in the NHL. Before the trade, Washington was strong in every facet of the game: seventh in penalty killing, sixth in power play scoring and tops in the league in points percentage.
And they just added one of the league’s best defensemen without losing anyone from their main roster.
The Capitals owed it to themselves to swing big like this
Alex Ovechkin is on the wrong side of 30 years old. Braden Holtby, Nicklas Backstrom, and T.J. Oshie are in the prime of their careers. Karl Alzner could leave in free agency.
Washington has spent a LOT of money to put talent around Ovechkin for a Stanley Cup win with nothing to show for it. A strange market, looming expansion draft and Shattenkirk’s desire to hit free agency led to a rare opportunity to get an elite player for far, far less than his true trade value.
Washington is running out of time to capitalize (heh!) on their current excellence. If GM Brian MacLellan didn’t make a huge move to fully tip the Eastern playing field in their favor, he would regret it forever.
At least the Blues got full value ... for a 2017 rental player
Here’s what the Wild gave up for bottom-six center Martin Hanzal:
- 2017 first-round pick
- 2018 second-round pick
- 2019 conditional fourth-round pick
- F Teemu Pulkkinen
Here’s what the Capitals gave up for elite defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk:
- 2017 first-round pick
- 2018 conditional second-round pick (kind of)
- F Zach Sanford
At first glance, it seems like the two teams paid the same price for wildly different players (in terms of sheer talent). At second glance, it kind of looks like the Wild paid more for Hanzal. If you rub your eyes and blink a few times.
So ... what’s up? Arizona GM John Chayka said yesterday this was the best price he could’ve possibly gotten for Hanzal. He’s right, because Shattenkirk went for something similar ... an indication that his status as a pending unrestricted free agent really drove down his trade value.
If Shattenkirk wasn’t able to come to terms with the Lightning or other teams on long-term contracts in trades, then the Blues weren’t going to get his true worth. A first rounder, an elite prospect, and another asset sounds nice, but nobody will play ball like that if he’s going to bolt soon.
But the Blues got something out of him as the playoffs start to become less of a certainty. That matters.
That Capitals power play is going to be ridiculous
We’ll get into this more tomorrow, but goodness: Backstrom, Ovechkin, Shattenkirk, Oshie, and Kuznetsov on the same unit. Barry Trotz has never had so many toys to play with on special teams. They will carve PK units up.
This is a shot across the Metropolitan bow
Columbus. Pittsburgh. The Rangers.
No division is stronger than the Metro this season. No trio of Eastern teams were more prepared to spoil the Capitals’ playoff run again this spring.
So Washington made the first strike. The flag is planted in the ground: if you want to make it to the Stanley Cup Final, you’ll have to go through D.C. first. The Capitals are tired of early exits and motivated to swing big for a Cup. The next few months will be fantastic drama.