NEW YORK — The news of the Washington Capitals acquiring the best available defenseman on the trade market was bittersweet for Nate Schmidt. He knew that the addition of Kevin Shattenkirk would give the Capitals one of the most stacked blue lines in the league. He also knew what it meant for himself, that when everyone’s healthy, he could be the player pushed out of the lineup.
“For the team, this is a great move,” Schmidt said. “You can’t be more happy for what our guys got in return to get a guy who’s a heck of a player. … What more can you ask for in a trade that brings in a guy of his magnitude? And yeah, personally, it’s tough. But this is good for the team. This is good for us in the long run. He’s a good player, and he’s going to help us tremendously, both on the power play and at five-on-five.”
Shattenkirk, who has 11 goals and 31 assists this season, will make his Capitals debut against the New York Rangers on Tuesday night, and he’s expected to be on a third pairing with Schmidt. Defenseman Brooks Orpik is still out of the lineup with a “lower-body” injury, but as an alternate captain who’s played well this season, Orpik is expected to be one of Washington’s top six defensemen when he’s healthy.
That means that after Schmidt has played in 53 games this season and has had his best year as a pro, he could soon find himself scratched consistently. Schmidt said he’s spoken to associate coach Todd Reirden, who works primarily with the defensemen. Schmidt has one goal and 14 assists this season while averaging 15:26.
“I talked to Todd just a little bit this morning, just to touch base on what’s going on,” Schmidt said. “No ground work was really laid. It was just kind of an informational, ‘What kind of happened?’ Other than that, that’s all the knowledge that I’ve got so far.”
The trickle-down effect of this won’t just impact Schmidt. Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said Shattenkirk will be on the top power-play unit, meaning John Carlson and Matt Niskanen will be on the second unit and have their minutes cut that way. It also means Dmitry Orlov is likely to be bumped off the power play entirely, though Trotz pointed out that Orlov’s minutes at five-on-five are significantly higher this season.
“It’s just being honest with them,” Trotz said. “Obviously, this is a deal that we feel that will hopefully get us to the next level. … Everybody has to share in ice time. We’ve done that by being deeper as a team, in terms of our lines. You see that in the minutes. You’ll see that on the back end as well, and it’s served us well.”
Here’s what the Capitals’ lineup is expected to look like against the New York Rangers:
Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Tom Wilson
Marcus Johansson-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Justin Williams
Brett Connolly-Lars Eller-Jakub Vrana
Daniel Winnik-Jay Beagle-Riley Barber
Karl Alzner-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Matt Niskanen
Nate Schmidt-Kevin Shattenkirk
Braden Holtby (starter)
T.J. Oshie (upper-body injury)
Brooks Orpik (lower-body injury)
Andre Burakovsky (hand)