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NEW YORK – Kevin Shattenkirk stepped onto the ice as a Washington Capitals defenseman on Tuesday night, having met his teammates for the first time a few hours earlier. He hadn’t had a minute of practice with them. Twenty-four hours earlier, he was a member of the St. Louis Blues.
“It’s still a work in progress,” said Shattenkirk, who skated 17:57 in the Capitals’ 4-1 win over the New York Rangers. He was on the ice for three goals – a power-play and an even-strength goal from the Capitals, and the Rangers’ first goal at 5:08 of the first period, on which he made a slight error.
“We got stretched out a little bit. I didn’t take a glance to see what was going on behind me,” he said.
This was the second time Shattenkirk has been traded in his career; the first time was in Feb. 2011 when the Colorado Avalanche sent him to the Blues. That one hurt him, as he didn’t see it coming; this time, he knew the odds were good he was getting shipped out at the 2017 NHL trade deadline, as the pending unrestricted free agent wasn’t re-signing with the Blues.
Although he didn’t have trade protection, he controlled his destiny to a point. Shattenkirk declined a sign-and-trade deal that would have sent him to the Tampa Bay Lightning, for example. “That was a great opportunity for me. But this was something I wanted to think it through,” said Shattenkirk, who intends to become a UFA on July 1, at least for now.
What he didn’t expect was that the Capitals could come calling. “Washington really came out of nowhere. A team that I didn’t even have in my head. But when the news was announced, I was really excited. Because they’re a great team,” he said.
The feeling is mutual. The Capitals were happy to see Shattenkirk, one of the NHL’s best puck-moving defensemen, added to their team. Justin Williams, who faced Shattenkirk in the Western Conference as a member of the Kings, praised him for being something more than an offensive defenseman.
“I like that he’s got some attitude to him. He’s not just a guy who’s going to shy away when it gets tough. He embraces that. Goes into the corner and gets the puck. The term ‘offensive defenseman’ … yes, he’s great offensively, but he doesn’t back down. That’s what I like,” he said.
As the top defenseman available at the deadline, the expectations are high for Shattenkirk, and those expectations are inflated even larger when you factor in the Capitals’ task at hand: He’s seen as significant building-block for the Capitals in their pursuit of the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
But what coach Barry Trotz told him before the game was to just set all of that aside and play hockey.
“The main thing he conveyed to me was not to stress too much about it. That there’s going to be a lot of information coming, and he said just play. That help put my mind at ease. That I wasn’t expected to do anything monumental,” said Shattenkirk.
Even if this acquisition by the Capitals was, within context, monumental.
This isn’t a team that typically makes waves at the deadline. And it certainly isn’t the team that wins the derby for the deadline’s biggest name. So to end up with Kevin Shattenkirk on their roster was, in the words of defenseman Karl Alzner, “pretty neat” to experience.
“You’re usually sitting there thinking ‘wow, I can’t believe that team picked so-and-so up … he’s going to be really good for them.’ The rumor I heard was that we were battling for Shattenkirk against Pittsburgh, and you definitely don’t them to have him,” he said.
“So it feels good to pick him up. It’s good to see that we’re the team that got the prize at the end of the day.”
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