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