The Capitals’ trade for Kevin Shattenkirk proves their Cup or bust attitude
BY MITCHELL WESTALL, SPORTS EDITOR
General Manager Brian MacLellan has made it very clear that the Capitals’ window to win the Stanley Cup with this current team is closing.
Prior to last season’s trade deadline, MacLellan told NHL.com, ”I view it as a two-year window. We’re going for it this year, we’re going for it next year, and then after that we’re evaluating where we’re at.”
That postseason, the Capitals lost in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs to the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Fast forward one season, and the Capitals are once again atop the league standings, yet this team is somehow even better than last year’s edition, and that was before they shocked the hockey world by acquiring the most sought-after player at the trade deadline.
Enter Kevin Shattenkirk. He is in the final season of a four-year/$17 million contract he signed with the St. Louis Blues in 2013 and will likely become a free agent following the conclusion of this season. He is an elite two-way defenseman with a right-handed shot, similar to John Carlson and Matt Niskanen.
The acquisition of Shattenkirk gives the Capitals the best power play point man they have had since Mike Green in his prime. He will likely skate alongside Brooks Orpik on the third pair, due to the already established roles of Carlson and Niskanen ahead of him in the lineup.
Shattenkirk’s services cost the Capitals promising rookie forward Zach Sanford, their first round draft pick in this year’s draft and a conditional second round pick. They also swapped minor league players, with Brad Malone heading to the Blues and goalie Pheonix Copley heading back to the Capitals. Copley was originally traded to the Blues as a part of the trade that brought T.J. Oshie to Washington.
MacLellan’s two-year window comments are in reference to the fact that only 11 of the 23 players on the current active roster are under contract for next season. Oshie, Justin Williams and Karl Alzner are among the team’s top players who become unrestricted free agents after this season.
There is a lot of doubt that the team will be able to resign these players, as rising stars Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky are going to be due for contract extensions this summer as they become restricted free agents.
Pair this with the fact that they will lose a player to the expansion draft, and this team could look very different next season.
The bright side is that the Capitals will finally get to utilize top prospects Jakub Vrana, Riley Barber, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey in larger roles next season.
It’s no secret that this team is loaded with talent, from their top line all the way down to the people that watch from the press box every night. Their fourth line plays better than some second lines around the league.
Unfortunately for the Capitals and their fans, the team that will be on the ice next season could look much different from the one they have the pleasure of watching this season. This isn’t to say that this will be the Capitals’ last chance to win the Stanley Cup, but their talent level will not likely be what it is now for a very long time.