Jason Arnott appreciates the Devils’ decision to trade him to Capitals

If you were to track down Jason Arnott last summer and tell him that he would be playing for a second-seeded, division-winning Eastern Conference team, he probably wouldn’t have been too surprised. Yet that shoulder shrug would probably change to some raised eyebrows once you revealed that he would do so as a member of the Washington Capitals rather than the New Jersey Devils.

Arnott found himself at a crossroads during the 2011 trade deadline, as the Devils were putting together an improbable (and ultimately futile) run toward a playoff spot. As courageous as New Jersey seemed to be, the odds were stacked against them, and the 36-year-old center wanted a chance to win another Stanley Cup ring.

Aware that he won’t get many more chances to go for the league’s top prize, Arnott and the Devils decided it would be best to move him to a team with a better outlook. The Capitals ended up being the right fit, as they hoped that the veteran of 17 seasons and more than 100 playoff games would add some crucial experience to the mix.

That equation is working out quite well in his abbreviated month-and-a-half stay, as it seems like both the Capitals and Arnott are benefiting from the move. It’s nice to see that Arnott appreciates the gesture by the Devils, something he discussed with beat writer Tom Gulitti.

Arnott covered quite a few issues in the story, with perhaps the most interesting tidbits involving Alex Ovechkin and Michelle Obama.

Arnott is trying to make the most of the chance he’s been given. He has spent a lot of time getting to know Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin since the trade.

They’ve been out to dinner a few times and one time, when Arnott’s wife, Dina, happened to be in town (she and their two children are still living in New Jersey), they happened to dine in the same restaurant as First Lady Michelle Obama. The First Lady was kind enough to stop by their table – at the outgoing Ovechkin’s request – and both got their photos take with her.

In addition to Ovechkin’s extroverted personality, Arnott has also come to see how much the two-time Hart Trophy winner’s wants to win the Stanley Cup.

“He’s just a star player that really wants to win,” Arnott said. “This is the one thing he wants to do. He’s won enough trophies for himself. I think he’d put all of that stuff (aside) if he would win that Cup. So it goes a long way to show a star player like that wants to win as badly as he does.”

If Game 1 was any indication, the Capitals seem willing to expend the elbow grease necessary to win it all. Perhaps Arnott can impart some more experience-based advice along the way to help them do just that.

Report: Wings, Hawks, Preds in mix to sign ‘strong two-way center’ Ejdsell

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Keep an eye on Swedish forward Victor Ejdsell in the coming days.

Ejdsell, 21, caught the eye of several NHL clubs following a standout year with Bofors of the Swedish first division — including Detroit (where he visited earlier this week, per MLive.) Reports suggest that Chicago and Nashville are also interested in securing Ejdsell’s services.

It’s easy to see why.

He racked up 25 goals and 57 points in 60 games this year, and he’s got terrific size. At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, the physical presence is there to potentially make the shift to the NHL next season.

“He’s evolved into a strong two-way center,” Detroit assistant GM Ryan Martin told MLive. “His move from wings to center helped his defensive game. He’s got good hands and offensive ability.”

Vlasic joins Canada for Worlds, extending marathon campaign

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Marc-Edouard Vlasic is putting in work this year.

On Friday, Hockey Canada announced that Vlasic — along with Mitch Marner, Brayden Schenn and Chad Johnson — has been added to the 22-player roster for the upcoming World Hockey Championship in France and Germany.

Vlasic’s season started early as a member of Canada’s World Cup of Hockey squad. He appeared in all six games, which included his tournament high TOI (24:04) in final against Team Europe.

From there, the 30-year-old rejoined the Sharks and appeared in 75 contests, averaging 21:14 per evening. He was part of a remarkably durable San Jose defense that saw Brent Burns play all 82 games, while Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon and Justin Braun appeared in 81.

In the playoffs, Vlasic was once again a busy guy. He finished second only to Burns in time on ice (23:16 per) and was often tasked with trying to shut down the Connor McDavid line. The Sharks would eventually bow out to the Oilers in six games.

And Vlasic might have even more to do this summer.

During his end-of-year media availability, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said getting Vlasic signed to an extension prior to September’s training camp was a big priority.

Vlasic’s current deal — a five-year, $21.25 million pact — expires next summer, and carries an average cap hit of $4.25M. Wilson didn’t mince words in describing how good he thinks Vlasic is.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” he said. “Marc-Edouard is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

Stepan: ‘I’ve stunk since the playoffs started’

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Derek Stepan knows he’s not playing very well, and he knows he’ll have to be better if the New York Rangers are going to make it past the Ottawa Senators.

With just one goal (an empty-netter) and one assist in seven playoff games, Stepan’s offensive production has fallen off a cliff after a respectable 55-point regular season, which included 38 assists.

“I’ve stunk since the playoffs started,” Stepan said, per NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “I’ve been not very good with the puck.”

An all-situations center, Stepan is more than just an offensive type. But he’s produced in previous playoff runs, and the Rangers need him to produce now — especially against a tight-checking Sens team that boasts a 2.00 goals-against average in these playoffs.

Stepan has 45 points (18G, 27A) in 92 career playoff games.

To be fair, he’s not the only Ranger who needs to get going offensively. One of the Blueshirts’ big strengths during the regular season was their balanced scoring, with all four lines contributing — and that’s not happening right now.

No Bieksa for Anaheim tonight, but Vatanen could return

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The Ducks will be without their most veteran skater on Friday as they look to even up their series with Edmonton.

Kevin Bieksa, who exited Game 1 with a lower-body injury following a collision with fellow d-man Shea Theodore, has been ruled out for tonight’s Game 2. It marks the first tilt the 35-year-old will miss this postseason.

Bieksa was enjoying a pretty good playoff prior to getting hurt. He racked up four assists in five games, while averaging just under 17 minutes per night. Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle is holding out hope Bieksa could return later in the series.

While this is a loss for the Ducks, it goes a long way in illustrating how much defensive depth they have.

While Carlyle wouldn’t confirm, all signs point to Sami Vatanen drawing in for Bieksa. Vatanen has been out since Game 1 of the Calgary series with an upper-body injury, but has resumed practicing and sounds like he’s ready to go.

“It’s always nice when a player is closer to coming back and you can potentially put them back in the lineup,” Carlyle said of Vatanen.

Anaheim dressed a blueline of Bieksa, Theodore, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Montour in Wednesday’s 5-3 defeat. If Vatanen can’t draw in for Bieksa, the club still has Korbinian Holzer in reserve.