Shattenkirk heads list of UFA d-men who could be traded

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The Washington Capitals made a minor trade today, adding defenseman Tom Gilbert from the Los Angeles Kings in return for future considerations.

It’s a common transaction at this time of the year, with the trade deadline just two weeks away. Contenders like the Caps know injuries can hit in the playoffs, and an extra veteran d-man is a nice insurance policy. Last year, Roman Polak, John-Michael Liles, Kris Russell, Justin Schultz, and Jakub Kindl all found new teams in the run-up to the postseason.

This year, the list could include New Jersey’s Kyle Quincey, Carolina’s Ron Hainsey, Colorado’s Fedor Tyutin, Philadelphia’s Mark Streit, Buffalo’s Cody Franson, Buffalo’s Dmitry Kulikov, and Arizona’s Michael Stone. All are pending UFAs on teams currently outside the playoff picture.

Kulikov and Stone are the youngsters in that group, each just 26 years old. The former, however, may make suitors hesitant, as noted below by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of interest comes GM Tim Murray’s way forDmitry Kulikov. The defenceman has had a nightmare year since suffering a back injury when pushed into an open bench door during the pre-season.

“I’ve never been through anything like this,” Kulikov said last weekend. “But I really don’t want to talk much about it.” Are you healthy now? “Yes,” he answered, although coach Dan Bylsma says Kulikov won’t practice every day. He’s also a free agent, but teams don’t really have a handle on where his game is.

Of course, the big UFA d-man is Kevin Shattenkirk. Back in January, St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong said he’d consider trading the puck-mover if the Blues were still stumbling through their season at the deadline.

“We don’t want to keep players here, hope to sneak into eighth place and get hammered in the first round,” said Armstrong.

Armstrong has since fired head coach Ken Hitchcock and replaced him with Mike Yeo, who seems to have the Blues headed in the right direction. Shattenkirk has four assists in his last four games, all St. Louis victories. The 28-year-old remains a big part of the Blues’ offense.

It begs the question: what kind of message would Armstrong be sending his players if he sold Shattenkirk for picks and/or prospects? After all, the Western Conference is pretty wide open this year, and Jake Allen is stopping the puck again. In the entire league, only four defensemen have more points than Shattenkirk’s 39.

“If something happens, then it happens,” said Yeo, “but until then, he’s on this team and he’s a real important player for us and he’s proven that.”

NHL scoring leaders: defensemen

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WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Penguins – Wednesday Night Rivalry

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The latest edition of NBCSN’s Wednesday Night Rivalry presents quite the treat: the Chicago Blackhawks at the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Both teams are at 103 standings points and each squad already punched a ticket to the playoffs. Even so, they’re dealing with mini-slumps that they’d like to work out tonight.

For all we know, this could be a preview of what would be one extremely fun, high-profile 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Either way, it’s a showcase of two premiere franchises brimming with star power.

You can watch on NBCSN, online and via NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream.

Yes, NHL will share protected, available player lists for expansion draft

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We can debate all day how much the NHL, Vegas Golden Knights and others involved really want to do this, but they’re making the right choice with the expansion draft nonetheless. The league will make protected and available players lists available at the same time they’re shared with teams, according to NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika.

(The NHL tweeted out as much, too.)

Could this lead to feelings being hurt or perhaps even certain sneaky deals being scuttled? Perhaps, but those are headaches that management should be expected to absorb.

The bottom line is that an expansion draft is a dream come true for armchair GMs, rumor enthusiasts, fantasy sports fans and … really, just about anyone interested in hockey. It would be a bewildering decision to try to keep all of this information locked down, even for a league that frequently garners a reputation for choosing comfort over entertainment value.

Cotsonika reports that such lists will probably be made available on June 18, though that isn’t set in stone.

(If you’re the type to take off work if a trade deadline was exciting, you might want to start drumming up excuses/putting aside vacation time/practicing your best “I’m sick” voice just in case …)

Cap Friendly provides a handy timeline for the expansion draft process:

Goalie nods: Blues give Hutton first start in two weeks

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Even though Jake Allen has played extremely well of late, Carter Hutton will get the call when the Blues take on the Coyotes in Arizona tonight.

Some of this could have to do with the opponent. The Coyotes are playing out the string on a forgettable campaign, and have lost six of their last seven. That includes a 4-1 defeat in St. Louis on Monday (in which Allen stopped 27 of 28 shots for the win).

As mentioned above, Allen has been great in March and deserves huge praise for turning his season around. He’s gone 8-1-1 this month with a remarkable .951 save percentage, allowing a mere 14 goals over his 10 appearances.

Hutton, though, has played equally well when called upon. He’s gone 4-1-0 over his last five starts, posting a .962 save percentage and a pair of shutouts. In his last outing, on Mar. 16, he allowed just one goal in a victory in San Jose.

For the Coyotes, Louis Domingue is in goal.

Elsewhere…

— A good matchup in Pittsburgh tonight, as the two defending Stanley Cup champions go head-to-head. Marc-Andre Fleury starts for the Penguins, while Corey Crawford goes for the Blackhawks.

— Calgary can clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight so, unsurprisingly, it’ll go with No. 1 Brian Elliott. No word yet on who starts for the visiting Kings, though it could be Ben Bishop after Jonathan Quick lost last night in Edmonton.

Philipp Grubauer gets the call for Washington, after Braden Holtby led the Caps to victory in Minnesota on Tuesday. Grubauer will take on Calvin Pickard, who starts for the Avs.

Vegas wants ‘progressive’ head coach, says McPhee

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Golden Knights GM George McPhee continued to list the characteristics he wants from a head coach this week, explaining that he’s searching for a forward-thinking bench boss.

“We want someone who is very current on the game, who is progressive on how the game should be played,” McPhee said in a recent phone call with season ticket holders, per the club website. “We’re looking for that progressive guy that can really help us through the early years and help develop our team and our players.”

So, time to connect the dots.

Back in November, Vegas owner Bill Foley laid the initial groundwork for McPhee’s coaching profile, saying he wanted to hire an experienced head coach.

“He’s not looking for a first-termer,” said Foley. “Some may or may not be available. … I would say the coach that we name is going to be a recognizable individual.”

Among the names that have already been floated, many fit the above billing: Jack Capuano, Gerard Gallant, Ken Hitchcock and Michel Therrien, among others.

Vegas has already spoken with Gallant and reportedly made contact with Capuano as well, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Gallant was nominated for last year’s Jack Adams as the NHL’s top coach, and McPhee is familiar with Capuano, having worked as an adviser to Isles GM Garth Snow prior to taking the Golden Knights gig.

It’s also believed former Flyers head coach Craig Berube is being considered, along with current Montreal associate Kirk Muller.