- The Washington Times - Monday, February 27, 2017

Just last week Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan suggested his team was not in pursuit of a major move before Wednesday’s NHL trade deadline.

“Maybe,” MacLellan said Feb. 23. “I don’t know. I mean, we’re exploring opportunities.”

That changed Monday night.

The Capitals acquired defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk from the St. Louis Blues in a blockbuster deal, sending a 2017 first-round pick, a conditional pick, and forwards Zach Sanford and Brad Malone to the Blues for in order to rent one of the game’s better defenseman. Washington also acquires goaltender Pheonix Copley in the deal.

“I’m not sure what tipped the scales,” MacLellan said Tuesday on a conference call. “I thought if there was one guy that could make our team better, it was him.”

Shattenkirk will be a coveted and unrestricted free agent this summer. He counts $4.25 million against the salary cap this season. The Blues retained 39 percent of his salary.

“He’s one of the top power-play guys in the league,” MacLellan said. “He’s an offensive defenseman, a great puck-mover. The power play, breakout passes, the power play passes to one-timers for Ovi, the shot on the power play. Those are his strengths. I think he’s a real good puck mover 5 on 5. I think it’s just an opportunity for us to add a quality defenseman to our lineup.”

The move shows the Capitals are jumping all-in this season. They lead the NHL with 89 points a season after winning the Presidents’ Trophy, but losing in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“I think we started last year with the time to win is now,” MacLellan said. “I thought we had a good team last year. We got exposed a little bit in the Pittsburgh series and I think we’ve addressed the issues and now we’re ready to take another run at it. Don’t know how it plays itself out, but I think we’ve done as much as we could do to help us be successful moving forward.”

Shattenkirk joined the Capitals in New York on Tuesday when they face the Rangers.

“I think really what it comes down to at the end of it is that as a player this is a chance that you don’t get many kicks at,” Shattenkirk said, according to an Associated Press report. “You just have to make sure it’s the right situation. For me it was just a matter of being patient. That was a great opportunity for me but I wanted to make sure I really thought it through. In my mind it was just something I wanted to continue pursuing, I guess.”

The 28 year old was drafted 14th overall in 2007 by Colorado, then traded the same season to St. Louis. He has played for the U.S. national team and the Blues along with Capitals wing T.J. Oshie. He has 284 career points. MacLellan said he spoke with Oshie and Brooks Orpik, who played with Shattenkirk in the Olympics, about what kind of person they would receive in the trade.

Shattenkirk, 28, has registered 42 points in 61 games with St. Louis this season and ranks tied for third among NHL defensemen in goals, tied for fourth in points and tied for seventh in assists. He is one of just four defensemen to rank in the top 10 in goals, assists and points this season, joining Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and Victor Hedman.

In addition, he ranks tied for second among defensemen in the NHL this season in power-play goals (7) and third in power-play points (20). Shattenkirk sits just three points shy of tying his career high in points (2013-14: 45), three goals shy of tying his career high in goals (2015-16: 14) and five assists shy of tying his career high in assists (2014-15: 36).

According to AP, Shattenkirk said: “It’s been a bit of whirlwind obviously. Things really started to heat up [Monday] night and Washington kind of really came out of nowhere in my mind. It was a team i didn’t really have in my head. Obviously when the news was announced, it was very exciting for me because this is a great team.”

Recent lower-body injuries to defenseman Matt Niskanen and John Carlson were also factors in the move. The Capitals had to be sure they had a top-four defenseman for late in the season and the playoffs.

Sanford was the Capitals‘ second-round pick in 2013. Malone had 20 points in 52 games with Hershey this season.

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