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Updated 1 hour ago
DALLAS – When the Washington Capitals added Kevin Shattenkirk, the top rental defenseman on the market, Monday night, it was the first major shot fired among Eastern Conference contenders in the run-up to Wednesday's NHL trade deadline.
From the perspective of Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford, that doesn't mean an arms race is about to break out.
Beyond acquiring Ron Hainsey on Thursday, thus adding some depth to a defense that was being stretched close to its breaking point, Rutherford has said all month he feels no sense of urgency or desperation to make a roster-shaking trade before the deadline.
With less than 48 hours to go, his refrain remains the same.
“Our plan doesn't change,” Rutherford said. “We feel comfortable with our team. If there's something we can add at the right price here prior to the deadline, then we'll consider doing it.”
After the Hainsey trade, Rutherford said he would have a meeting with the team's hockey staff to discuss whether further additions on defense were warranted.
Olli Maatta (hand) and Trevor Daley (knee) both had surgery in recent days and are expected to be out until the waning days of the regular season. Kris Letang has been skating in a limited capacity but remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Rutherford said the team's entire hockey staff is on the team's current road trip, which includes games Tuesday night in Dallas and Wednesday night in Chicago. They were scheduled to meet Tuesday morning to map out further battle plans.
“If the right fit – what we call the right fit – is there for us, more in a depth role because we feel all our defensemen will be back for the playoffs, then we might look at that,” Rutherford said.
In addition to talking to the team's inner circle of decision makers, Rutherford said he also plans to be in communication with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury right up until Wednesday's deadline.
“There's nothing more to add,” Rutherford said. “That really covers it.”
Fleury has not publicly admitted to requesting a trade, but he has, when asked, consistently expressed his disappointment with limited playing time this season. Rutherford has steadfastly said he would prefer to keep both Fleury and starter Matt Murray through the playoffs, but would take into consideration his 32-year-old goaltender's wishes.
Prior to adding Shattenkirk, the Capitals already had a five-point lead on the second-place Penguins in the Metropolitan Division race and were ranked in the top seven in the league in goals for, goals against, power play and penalty killing.
The acquisition of the 28-year-old, right-handed offensive defenseman from St. Louis kept him away from conference rivals such as the Penguins or New York Rangers as much as it filled any need the Capitals might have. The price they paid included a first-round pick, a conditional second-round pick and prospect Zach Sanford.
The day before, Western Conference-leading Minnesota acquired center Martin Hanzal from Arizona for a package that included a first-rounder, a second-rounder and prospect Grayson Downing.
Both Shattenkirk and Hanzal will be unrestricted free agents in July. The moves helped set the market for what price must be paid to bring in high-end rental talent – and showed that the cost to acquire impact players with years left on their contracts will be even higher.
Rutherford said he has no particular preference toward rental players or players with term left on their contracts if he happens to find a deal that is to his liking before the deadline.
“It depends who it is,” Rutherford said. “It depends who the player is and what the situation is. It could be one or the other.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.
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