Let me show you a tale with two chapters:
I may be way off base but the Pitt/Wash rumors for Shattenkirk tell me Gorton isn't budging and St. Louis is panicking. Hold steady, Jeff!— Joe Fortunato (@BlueshirtBanter) February 27, 2017
I understand there are a few conditions to work out, but barring a collapse, Kevin Shattenkirk is going to Washington— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) February 28, 2017
So, yeah I was wrong. Wasn’t the first time that’s been the case and won’t be the last, either.
If you’ve been living under a rock (or sleep for, like, 16 hours a day) Kevin Shattenkirk will be playing at Madison Square Garden tonight ... as a member of the Washington Capitals.
Shocked? So is the hockey world. Here’s the main parts of the deal: A 2017 1st, Zach Sanford and Brad Malone. There’s also about a hundred conditions of the deal, which you can find at the thread below:
Let's take a few tweets and spell out the STL/WASH trade...— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) February 28, 2017
There’s reasons to be upset about this. Washington didn’t just get better, they got to a totally different level. First-pairing defenseman, lethal power play quarterback and the defense to offense transition the Rangers have been dreaming about.
For all the reasons Shattenkirk would have jumped the Rangers (potentially) from the local to the express train to Stanley Cup contention, they’re now all the reasons why the Rangers road to the Cup (already difficult) now seems impossible.
Washington is the best team in the East. They might be full-on NHL favorites, too. On paper, of course, but there’s hints of reality there. The weaknesses you could assign to the Capitals got fixed overnight. For a price, of course, but they got fixed.
I’m here to tell you that Jeff Gorton just allowed a division rival to make the “finishing” move that likely gets Alex Ovechkin to his first Eastern Conference Final appearance and potentially beyond.
I’m also here to tell you that Gorton did a good job by not stopping it from happening.
It was always clear the Blues were going to play differently with the Rangers. With the Rangers it wasn’t just a rental, but a long-term move. Sure, Washington could try to (and will) court Shattenkirk to keep him in the capital. Sure, it could work. Safe money is on Shattenkirk becoming a free agent in July, and there’s more than a little smoke hinting at him playing on Broadway come next October.
Adam detailed this in his brilliant piece of prioritizing next year, rather than 2017. This move (or really, lack there of) follows this path. There was no reason to part with a 1st round pick, Robin Kovacs and a 2nd round pick (since Shattenkirk would likely re-sign) for renting Shattenkirk — which would be a comparable deal. He makes the Rangers better, yes, but still probably wouldn’t be enough on his own this year. And why spend the assets when you don’t have to?
Here’s the rub: What does this do to Gorton?
I’m sure Gorton was playing hardball (and he should have been) and I’m sure St. Louis was playing it right back (as they should have) since they didn’t consider the Rangers to be renters for Shattenkirk. Gorton refused to blink.
That the prized defenseman went to a potential Cup contender is unfortunate. That the Cup contender that just got a lot better happens to be in your division/conference -- and thus directly in your path to the Stanley Cup -- is worse. So be it.
Panicked reactions won’t help now. Dennis Wideman will not help. Brendan Smith (on his own) will not help. Cody Franson (on his own) will not help. Franson and Smith might not help — especially if they don’t replace half of the top four.
Spending assets in panic moves to do something (or rather, to not do nothing) doesn’t make sense. I’d make an argument here for dangling Nick Holden, Kevin Klein and Oscar Lindberg (Adam Clendneing replaces the first two without issue and Pavel Buchnevich replaces Lindberg) for assets without losing the “contender” mindset.
I’d also dangle Michael Grabner — in this market, imagine what he would get — but that would be waiving the white flag. I mean, Grabner’s pointless in seven; we might already be in the midst of his coming back down to earth. Selling high is great, but the team isn’t thinking this way.
The fear is Gorton getting into an arms war when the other side already got the biggest bomb. All you’re going to do is spend money and time on inferior weapons and at the end of the day you have less assets and don’t have what you wanted in the first place.
Making long term defensive moves with Anaheim (this is 100% me speculating as an example) would work. But I’m just not sure those deals are out there. And if they’re not, and Gorton isn’t going to try and use this seller’s market to his advantage, then he’s better off doing nothing.