ST. LOUIS, MO – JANUARY 1: Kevin Shattenkirk #22 of the St. Louis Blues shoots the puck during the 2017 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic Practice Day at Busch Stadium on January 1, 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The NHL’s top team has acquired the league’s most coveted trade target. The Washington Capitals struck a deal with the St. Louis Blues on Monday night, acquiring defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and fringe-goaltender Phoenix Copley in exchange for a first-round pick in 2017, a second-round pick in 2018 pick, forward Zach Sanford, and depth forward Brad Malone.

Leading the league with 41 wins in just 61 games (with 89 points overall and an absurd +70 goal differential), the Capitals were already well-positioned for a Stanley Cup run. Adding Shattenkirk to the mix bumps their chances even higher.

There aren’t many better offensive rearguards than Shattenkirk. The 29-year-old ranked second in Blues scoring with 11 goals, 31 assists, and 42 points. He’s an elite force on the power play, where 20 of his total points have come. On the right side, Shattenkirk’s dynamic game drove St. Louis’ offense. Defensively, he’s above average. While a majority of his zone starts have taken place in the offensive zone (37.9 percent), Shattenkirk’s 52.8 Corsi For percentage (shot attempts at even strength) is weighed down by defense partner Carl Gunnarsson.

Adding Shattenkirk turns a very good Capitals defense, great. Matt Niskanen (32 points) and John Carlson (30 points) are both first-pair quality defenders. Dmitry Orlov (27 points) is no slouch, while Brooks Orpik and Karl Alzner are both physical pluses, who work best as a third pair. Talented and responsible at both ends of the ice, Washington’s defense just became the envy of the league.

Plus, he’ll come at a discounted price.

Furthermore, Shattenkirk ends up in a destination he desired. He blocked a deal to the Tampa Bay Lightning last week. As a pending UFA, he passed on an extension. We’ll see if Shattenkirk re-ups with Washington or the move is just a rental. Regardless, the move is magnificent for Washington.

As for St. Louis side of the deal, losing Shattenkirk was inevitable, so at least the club didn’t botch negotiations entirely. Essentially, St. Louis got the Dougie Hamilton-rate for Shattenkirk – a first-round, second-round, and a prospect – which is a mediocre, yet, underwhelming cost.

Bringing in a first-round pick will add future depth or give the Blues an asset to deal in the future. The second-round pick is also a good pick – barring it reaches its condition. The only real piece for St. Louis in the present is Sanford – a 22-year-old Boston College alumni in his first pro season. The left winger showed scoring touch at the AHL level with 11 goals in 25 games. In 26 games with the Capitals, he’s registered three points. He’s unlikely to make an immediate impact.

The cost of doing business leaves the Blues a tad shorthanded at the blueline. However, St. Louis isn’t waving the white flag; they sit three points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings for the last Wild Card spot.

The rest of the NHL should be on notice. The Capitals are, once again, all-in. Shattenkirk bolsters an already deep team and defense core. The move brings Alex Ovechkin one step closer to the Stanley Cup. On the flip side, the Blues found an okay offer for a player that didn’t have a future in the organization. Is it the best deal? No. However, nabbing future assets helps St. Louis long-term. But, you can’t help but wonder if they waited closer until the deadline if they could have gotten more. The Caps win here.

About Liam McGuire

Social +Staff writer for The Comeback & Awful Announcing.

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