The Washington Capitals pulled off perhaps the biggest acquisition of the recent trade deadline, reeling in mobile, puck-moving defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk from St. Louis, further bolstering their offensive attack while also preventing one of their Eastern Conference rivals -notably Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers – from adding the skilled blue liner to their lineup. While often times it takes time for a player to adjust to his new surroundings following a mid-season trade, Shattenkirk has fit in well with Washington registering 13 points in 17 games since the deal. As Isabelle Khurshudyan of The Washington Post writes, the trade has so far been a big success for the Capitals. But unless Shattenkirk helps Washington embark on a deep playoff run, one that culminates in a berth in the Eastern Conference Final at the very least, it will be hard to consider the deal a win for the Caps.
Though GM Brian McLellan was hesitant to disrupt the team’s chemistry by making a headline move at the deadline, Shattenkirk was the one player he was willing to roll the dice on, according to Khurshudyan. In today’s game you can seemingly never have enough puck-moving ability on the back end and McLellan, recognizing that, didn’t shy away from acquiring the skilled right-handed defender. The GM also benefited from first-hand information as to how Shattenkirk would fit in as both T.J. Oshie and Brooks Orpik have been teammates of the blue liner at some point in their respective careers.
Of course this season, and consequently this trade, will hinge entirely on the success achieved in the postseason. Despite having one of the league’s best players in Alex Ovechkin piloting the ship, the Capitals have failed to advance further than the second round of the playoffs since the 1997-98 campaign, when the team surprisingly made it to the Stanley Cup Final. Should the Capitals bow out again before the Eastern Conference Final, there will be no escaping the conclusion that this was yet another disappointing campaign in Washington.
Elsewhere in the Metro Division:
- After a stellar postseason which saw the then 20-year-old winger tally 10 points in 18 games for Chicago during the Blackhawks Stanley Cup run in 2015, Teuvo Teravainen was expected to develop into a star player in this league. Following a mediocre 2015-16, Teravainen was dealt to Carolina along with veteran winger Bryan Bickell in a deal designed to create precious cap space for Chicago. With a fresh start in a new city, it was thought that Teravainen, now 22, would start to realize his vast potential yet that hasn’t proven to be the case. The 5-foot-11 winger has bested his offensive output from a year ago – 41 points to 35 – yet more was expected from the skilled Finn. But, as Chip Alexander of The News & Observer writes, Teravainen has a plan to get better this offseaon. The native of Helsinki, Finland plans to add more muscle this summer in the hopes that improves his board play and ability to win one-on-one battles. For Teravainen, who will be a RFA this summer and most likely in line for a bridge contract, the 2017-18 campaign will help determine whether he can take the next step in the NHL and become a high-end scoring forward or whether he will settle in as a middle-six winger who leaves you wanting more.
- Mika Zibenajad, who returns to Ottawa for the first time since last summer’s trade to New York, could be a big key for the Rangers in the playoffs, writes Larry Brooks of the New York Post. Zibanejad started strong this season with 15 points in his first 19 games but suffered a broken fibula during a November game against Florida and has struggled with consistency since returning. As Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault noted, Zibanejad’s skating is perhaps his best asset and it’s taken time to fully heal after the injury. Still, as Brooks reports, Vigneault sees Zibanejad as “a good playmaker with good speed,” who has a chance to develop into a “top-notch player and top-notch centerman,” heading into the playoffs. Derick Brassard, who went to Ottawa in the Zibanejad trade, was a big time performer in the playoffs for New York and there will be pressure on the former Senator to produce for his new club when it matters most.
- Good news for the Columbus Blue Jackets, who could use some while in the midst of a five-game losing streak, as the team is confident that rookie blue liner Zach Werenski will be ready to play in the postseason. Both GM Jarmo Kekalainen and head coach John Tortorella have expressed that belief, tweets Tom Reed of the Columbus Dispatch. Werenski, who has 11 goals and 47 points in 78 games as a 19-year-old rookie, was injured by a high but legal hit from Alex Ovechkin in a recent game against the Capitals and has missed the last three games, including today’s tilt against Philadelphia. Werenski is an important player for the Jackets and their odds of upsetting the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins improve dramatically if he is 100% and ready to play in game one of their first round playoff match-up.