Kevin Shattenkirk. Image by: Getty Images
The Capitals are going all-in to win a Cup this year before their cap situation gets complicated in the off-season. That means it will be difficult to re-sign Kevin Shattenkirk.
The Washington Capitals made the most significant deal of the NHL trade deadline period by acquiring defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk from the St. Louis Blues. It's widely assumed the 28-year-old pending unrestricted free agent will only be a playoff rental for the Caps.
Shattenkirk is the top defenseman in this summer's UFA market and could command up to $7-million annually on a long-term deal. The Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa recently suggested the Capitals lack the cap space to re-sign the blueliner.
The Capitals have over $51 million invested in 12 players. Like Shattenkirk, winger T.J. Oshie and shutdown rearguard Karl Alzner are eligible for UFA status in July. Restricted free agent forwards Evgeny Kuzentsov and Andre Burakovsky are also in line for substantial raises.
Re-signing Shattenkirk seems a long shot for the Capitals, but GM Brian MacLellan isn't ruling out the possibility. The Washington Post's Isabelle Khurshudyan reported MacLellan said he wasn't closed off to the idea, though he acknowledged it could prove difficult.
Khurshudyan noted the Shattenkirk camp is staying open-minded on the subject. However, she felt the Capitals must shed some salary if they intend on keeping him in the fold.
The problem, however, is there's precious little salary the Caps can move to clear space for Shattenkirk. Over $40 million is tied up in core players such as Alex Ovechkin, Braden Holtby, Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson beyond this season.
Shedding defenseman Brooks Orpik ($5.5-million annual salary-cap hit) is the logical move. He could be exposed in this June's expansion draft, but it's unlikely the Vegas Golden Knights will select an aging, expensive and oft-injured blueliner who's signed through 2018-19. The Caps probably won't find many takers for Orpik in this summer's trade market.
MacLellan suggested that team and player performance down the stretch could factor into his off-season decisions. Regardless, Washington's cap limitations and Shattenkirk's salary demands likely ensures the blueliner hits the open market on July 1.
YZERMAN MADE SAVVY MOVE, BUT WORKS REMAINS TO BE DONE
Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman pulled off the cleverest deal of the 2017 trade deadline. In a three-way move, he shipped center Valtteri Filppula and two draft picks to the Philadelphia Flyers for defenseman Mark Streit, then flipped the blueliner to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a draft pick.
With these moves, Yzerman removed Filppula's $5.5 million salary-cap hit from his books for next season. He also rid himself of the center's no-movement clause, as it could've been a potential headache in compiling his list of protected players for the expansion draft.
The Tampa Bay Times' Joe Smith observed Yzerman has close to $18 million in salary cap space for 2017-18. He wondered, however, if there's enough room to re-sign some key players and to add a top-four defenseman and an experienced backup goaltender.
Lightning forwards Jonathan Drouin, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat are slated to become RFAs in July. Smith mused that one of them could be dangled as trade bait this summer to land that elusive blueliner. He also speculated one of them could've been offered up to the St. Louis Blues in a recent failed effort to acquire Kevin Shattenkirk.
Drouin, 21, is coming off an entry-level contract and could be re-signed to an affordable two-year bridge deal. Since his ill-advised trade demand last season, he's matured into a valuable member of the Lightning's offense. With 41 points in 57 games, Drouin's among the few bright spots in a disappointing season for the Bolts.
Johnson and Palat, Calder Trophy finalists in 2014, both carry arbitration rights this year. Earning identical $3.33-million annual cap hits, they'll seek significant pay raises on longer-term deals. Both played important roles in the Bolts march to the 2015 Stanley Cup final.
Of the trio, Johnson could become expendable. His name surfaced several times in the rumor mill leading up to the trade deadline. Given the 26-year-old's reputation as a proven postseason performer, he could become an affordable alternative this summer for clubs with interest in Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene.
Possible trade destinations could include the Anaheim Ducks, Carolina Hurricanes, Minnesota Wild, Philadelphia Flyers and Vancouver Canucks. All possess depth in good young blueliners and could be in the market for a scoring forward.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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