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Trading Kevin Shattenkirk best option for Blues

GM able to get picks, prospect in return for pending unrestricted free agent defenseman

by Louie Korac / NHL.com Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- When it was determined that keeping defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk beyond this season was not possible, St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong knew he would have to part with a key player.  

The Blues traded Shattenkirk and goalie Pheonix Copley on Monday to the Washington Capitals for a first-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, a conditional second-round pick in 2019 and another conditional pick. St. Louis also acquired center prospect Zachary Sanford and veteran forward Brad Malone.

Shattenkirk, who is in the final year of a four-year, $17 million contract with an average annual value of $4.25 million, has been linked to trades for the past two seasons. After going over their options, the Blues decided it was best to try and get something in return for Shattenkirk instead of allowing the 28-year-old to leave as a free agent, like forwards David Backes and Troy Brouwer did last summer.

"We certainly weren't trying to trade him for two years," Armstrong said. "We've had a very competitive team here for a number of years and he's been a big part of that. I would say this thought process started at the entry draft last year.

"I had a chance to talk to Kevin and his agent [Jordan Neumann] about July 1, there was a possibility of signing him to an eight-year extension. His response at that time was he felt he needed a different challenge. With [Colton] Parayko and [Alex] Pietrangelo, I think [Shattenkirk] was hoping to get more responsibility in different areas. He felt that signing an extension at that time with this organization wasn't something that he was prepared to do."

Video: Elliotte Friedman on the Kevin Shattenkirk trade

The Blues acquired Shattenkirk from the Colorado Avalanche in a trade centered around defenseman Erik Johnson, who was the No. 1 pick by St. Louis in the 2006 draft. Shattenkirk was a popular player in the Blues' locker room and one of four alternate captains.

Shattenkirk has 42 points (11 goals, 31 assists) in 61 games this season. He had 258 points (59 goals, 199 assists) in 425 NHL regular-season games in seven seasons with St. Louis.

"It's not the part of the business that you like," Pietrangelo said. "It's tough. It's always tough to see your friends go, tough to see a player of that caliber go, but it's the business and we've got to move on. ... Any time stuff like that happens, he's going to be a friend, he's going to be a friend for a long time.

"Obviously we know the [NHL Trade Deadline] is right now and it's tough for [Shattenkirk] to go through that, but it's obviously a big relief, I'm sure, for him to kind of put this in the past and move on."

With the Blues up against the NHL salary cap and with not much room for flexibility, Armstrong felt acquiring assets instead of gambling on losing another free agent was his best option.

"The highest return still was coming from a sign-and-trade," Armstrong said. "We worked out a package that we felt we were very comfortable with on a sign-and-trade and took that to Kevin and his representative. They talked to a team, couldn't find common ground, so that was null and void.

"I talked to the teams. As a team, you value your players maybe differently than they're valued around the League, on a positive and negative format. We looked out there, we told the teams that might have interest in Kevin as a rental player what we were looking for, then we went to work."

Sanford, 22, was expected to arrive in St. Louis Tuesday and was a player the Blues coveted.

Video: WSH@DET: Sanford fires a snap shot past Mrazek

"You base that on your scouting staff and what they see," Armstrong said. "They see a lot of [forward] Tage Thompson in him, a player we took in the first round [of the 2016 draft]. A big body, a point a game player as a sophomore at Boston College. So he was a one-a-game player on a very good team in college.

"... Talking to Washington on players that we wanted and having to work our way to get to that player wasn't someone that they were hoping to move on from. I see a big player that's multi-positional. We're hoping to see him as a centerman, a player that can produce offense and you hope everything works out perfectly, but a 6-foot-4 Zach and a 6-4, 6-5 Tage Thompson down the middle for a few years wouldn't hurt my feelings."

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