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There’s no more waiting for a premier swap ahead of Wednesday’s NHL trade deadline, because none other than the league’s No. 1 team, the Washington Capitals, struck not long before midnight Monday to land Kevin Shattenkirk.
 
Unarguably one of the hottest potential trade targets outside of Colorado’s Matt Duchene, Shattenkirk had long been the subject of deadline speculation. And despite a late-night suggestion from NHL Network’s Brian Lawton that the Pittsburgh Penguins were locked in a “fierce battle” for Shattenkirk’s services, it was the Caps who ultimately won the sweepstakes for the big-name defenseman.
 
The package sent to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Shattenkirk is notable, including forwards Zach Sanford, Brad Malone, a 2017 first-round draft pick and another conditional pick in 2019. But considering Washington also reeled in goalie Phoenix Copley and -- perhaps more important -- the fact that the Caps’ top-of-the-league competition, the Minnesota Wild, paid such a steep price to get Martin Hanzal over the weekend, the Shattenkirk swap seems awfully in favor of the powerhouse that is Washington.
 
Late in February 2016, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan made it clear that his team was operating on a “two-year window” to win the Stanley Cup Final. And if the late-season blockbuster deal for Shattenkirk is any indication, MacLellan and Co. seem to be sticking squarely to that plan, perhaps cutting it to one year.
 
Because no one needed any convincing that the Caps, despite some hiccups this month, are models of dominance, both on paper and on the ice, in the 2016-17 season and atop the Eastern Conference. And that was before Washington thrust a hot-shooting blue liner onto a defense that had not seen a major upgrade in some time.

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