Trading for Shattenkirk another 'all-in' move for Capitals
WASHINGTON (AP) Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan didn't feel any pressure to make a move before this week's trading deadline because of Washington's impressive collection of talent.
What MacLellan did feel was a sense of urgency that the window is closing for the Capitals to win a Stanley Cup with Alex Ovechkin and this group of players. So he targeted the top player available and acquired defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk from the St. Louis Blues.
The NHL-leading Capitals get another weapon in Shattenkirk, and the only thing that will make the 2017 playoffs successful for talent-rich Washington, MacLellan bluntly said, is ''winning a championship.''
''They didn't bring me in to save anything,'' Shattenkirk said before making his Capitals debut Tuesday night against the New York Rangers. ''They're the best team in the NHL right now. I just have to make sure I'm coming in and doing what I do best for a hockey team.''
In the weeks leading up to the trade deadline Wednesday, Capitals players saw no glaring needs. Reigning Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Braden Holtby is on top of his game, Ovechkin and sidekick Nicklas Backstrom are thriving with more forward depth and the Capitals' defense was full of top-end talent and seven players deep.
MacLellan sounded content just to ''upgrade on the fringes'' and not make any major moves.
But Shattenkirk, a 28-year-old puck-mover with offensive punch, was too good to pass up as potentially the final piece of the elusive championship puzzle.
''I thought if there was one guy that could make our team better, it was him,'' MacLellan said on a conference call. ''We were comfortable going into the playoffs with what we had. But at the same time I think it's my job to pursue anything that might make this team better.''
Giving up young forward Zach Sanford and at least a 2017 first-round pick in the trade seemingly is a small price to pay for Shattenkirk and the morale boost it gives the Capitals. Defenseman Karl Alzner described the mood on the ice for the morning skate at Madison Square Garden as ''almost giddy'' and internally plenty of quiet confidence.
Backstrom said the trade is an ''all-in thing'' from MacLellan's standpoint. The third-year GM said he didn't get Shattenkirk to keep him away from the rival Pittsburgh Penguins or Rangers, but the depth and strength of the division and path to the Eastern Conference final ratcheted up the pressure.
The Capitals won the Presidents' Trophy as the league's top team last season but lost to the eventual Cup-champion Penguins in the second round. It was the eighth first- or second-round exit in as many chances dating to 2008, and with wingers T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams and Alzner set to be free agents, the focus was almost immediately on the need to win this spring.
''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,'' MacLellan said. ''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.''
No acquisition guarantees a trip to the third round, let alone a title. But as coach Barry Trotz said, ''You don't want to have an opportunity go by where you felt like you could've made a difference.''
The Capitals believe that's what they have in seize it Shattenkirk.
''I believe we have an even better team than we had last year,'' Williams said. ''But it's how we can respond to it. You have to embrace the pressure on yourself because after this we still got to go out and play. It's not just on paper what one of the best teams is. It's how we come together, it's how we play and how we respond to it.''
AP Sports Writer Vin A. Cherwoo in New York contributed.