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Shattenkirk is looking to fit in with the Caps...and get a little shut-eye

Shattenkirk is looking to fit in with the Caps...and get a little shut-eye

NEW YORK—Kevin Shattenkirk arrived at Madison Square Garden around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, running on adrenaline alone.

“I didn’t get much sleep,” the Capitals' newest player said before debuting against the Rangers. “I was thinking about everything under the sun. Even today during my pregame nap, it was more tossing and turning.”

Indeed, the 28-year-old defenseman has been through a lot over the last 24 hours.

He found out late Monday night—via social media, no less—that he had been traded from the Blues to the Capitals. He spent Tuesday morning making his way from St. Louis to the Capitals’ hotel in Manhattan. Then, after some quick hellos and a crash course on Washington's systems, he found himself in the lineup Tuesday night.

Shattenkirk, a pending unrestricted free agent, knew that he was likely to be moved prior to Wednesday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline. So the fact that he got traded wasn’t a huge surprise.

RELATED: Caps earn first win over Rangers with second period surge

He just had no idea it would be to the Caps. Or that he would find out on Twitter.

“Washington kind of really came out of nowhere in my mind,” Shattenkirk said. “It was a team I didn’t really have in my head. Obviously when the news was announced, it was very exciting for me because this is a great team.”

He added: “These days, just like everything else, I found out on social media. That’s when everything started to break. After that, you start to get some text messages. Then finally I spoke to [Blues General Manager] Doug Armstrong and then [Capitals General Manager] Brian MacLellan after that.”

Although the Caps are looking at Shattenkirk as the final piece to a championship puzzle, he says it's important to guard against trying to do more than is asked of him.

“In my mind, I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself,” he said. “They didn’t bring me in to save anything. They are the best team in the NHL right now. I just have to make sure I’m doing what I do best.”

Which, for Shattenkirk, means playing solidly in the defensive end while also producing on the power play. Entering Tuesday’s game, Shattenkirk was tied for third among defensemen in power play points (20).

He acknowledged that it’s going to take at least a couple of games to get comfortable with the Caps’ schemes and personnel. But it became obvious early in Tuesday's game that Coach Barry Trotz is not going to ease him into the flow. In fact, Shattenkirk was tasked with manning the point on the first unit power play and he looked quite comfortable feeding the puck to Alex Ovechkin in the circle.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said before the game, asked about playing alongside No. 8. “I’ve had a good couple of weapons in St. Louis for a long time. But [Ovechkin] is of the greatest goal scorers of all time. For me, I just need to learn how to make that pass and I think I’ll be alright.”

Overall, Shattenkirk enjoyed a solid first game in a Capitals sweater. He moved the puck quickly and decisively. He nearly set up Marcus Johansson with a cross ice pass early in the contest. His three shots on goal in the first period were more than anyone else on the ice. But the challenge of a joining a new team at the deadline was also apparent as a miscommunication with partner Nate Schmidt led to the Rangers’ first period goal.

Indeed, it’s going to take a little time for Shattenkirk to get fully integrated. 

“There’s a lot of new terminology, new systems,” Shattenkirk added. “I don’t think they’re expecting me to get it all done in 12 hours, 24 hours. It’s going to be a process. It’s going to be a couple of games for me to figure this out. Already I can see how great these guys are in the locker room and helpful they are. I’m looking forward to being able to bounce some ideas off guys and make sure I get this down as soon as possible.”

That, and getting a few hours of shut-eye.

“Hopefully when we get back to Washington I’ll be able to get some solid hours in,” he cracked.

MORE CAPITALS: Backstrom solidifies Trotz's 700th career win with PP goal

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Capitals hint at their plans for Shane Gersich next season with new contract

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Capitals hint at their plans for Shane Gersich next season with new contract

Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan began tackling the items on his very long to-do list with the signing of prospect forward Shane Gersich. The team announced Monday that Gersich was re-signed to a one-year, two-way contract that carries a cap hit of $700,000.

Gersich will remain a restricted free agent at the end of the deal but will still be one year away from becoming arbitration eligible.

Gersich, who will turn 23 in July, just finished his first full professional season with the Hershey Bears, recording eight goals and 16 assists in 66 games.

“I learned a ton,” Gersich told NBC Sports Washington about his first AHL season. “I think our staff here is unbelievable. They've taught me so much, whether it's [showing] me video or doing skills or whatever. Can't say enough good things about them. And just my overall game, playing 200 feet and being aware of little details in the game. I think my game's grown a ton.”

Gersich’s original contract was for two seasons, but the first year was burned at the end of the 2017-18 season when he signed out of college at the end of the season and joined the Caps’ roster.

That transition from Stanley Cup champion to AHL the following season was a tough one for Gersich initially.

“Obviously, you were making your NHL debut and stuff like that, then it's kind of back to work and square one,” Gersich said. “For me, I know [I'm] definitely not the kid that's going to shy away from working or anything like that. So obviously, you've got to earn everything you get, and then that's how it is at every level.”

The speedy forward played in five games for Washington, three in the regular season and two in the playoffs during the Stanley Cup run. His speed was evident and has led many fans to wonder if the future is now for the young forward. His first year in Hershey showed, however, he still has a lot to learn before he reaches the NHL.

Gersich is still very much learning the game at the professional level. There was a little too much reaction in his game as opposed to action, which mitigated his speed. That is something he knows he needs to refine.

“I think just always being aware out there,” he said when talking about aspects of his game he wants to improve on. “Keeping my head on a swivel and making little plays. Just using my strengths too, I think. I've got to realize that I can use my speed out there a lot.”

The Caps will have a few roster spots open next season and not much money under the cap to fill those spots. Using young prospects is always an intriguing option. Gersich’s new contract, however, seems to indicate the Caps anticipate him spending the season in the AHL.

Gersich’s new contract carries an NHL salary of $700,000, which is actually lower than his first contract with a $925,000 salary. His minor-league salary, however, went up from $70,000 to $115,000. It may look like Gerisch is getting a pay cut based on the NHL numbers, but he actually is getting a raise because, barring a dazzling training camp, he will be spending most if not all of next season in Hershey. And if he does surprise, well now he has a lower NHL cap hit which is very important for a Washington team that will likely be very close to the salary cap.

While the implications of the contract seem clear, Gersich is excited for the opportunity to show he belongs in the NHL at training camp in the fall.

“Obviously, I want to play in the NHL,” he said. “It's been my goal my whole life, and that's the reason I left North Dakota. I think I'm ready for it, but you've got to wait and see until the time comes.”

The Caps also announced Monday the re-signing of forward Brian Pinho to a one-year, two-way contract. His contract carries a $700,000 NHL salary and a $100,000 AHL salary.

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In an offseason full of questions, Jonas Siegenthaler isn’t one of them

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In an offseason full of questions, Jonas Siegenthaler isn’t one of them

The Capitals will have a lot of roster spots open and not much money to fill them with this offseason. Adding a young, cheap defensive prospect to the NHL roster will certainly help and that appears to be the plan for Jonas Siegenthaler.

Siegenthaler’s first NHL season began with him in the AHL, but it finished with him playing on the top defensive pairing of the defending Stanley Cup champions in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The season did not get off to a great start for Siegenthaler as he became a cap casualty despite a strong training camp. Heading into the start of the NHL season, he looked poised to make the Caps roster.

“I came to camp here with the mindset to make the team and come to camp in good shape and everything,” Siegenthaler said at the team’s breakdown day.

The suspension to Tom Wilson and subsequent acquisition of Dmitrij Jaskin off waivers forced Washington to shuffle money to get under the salary cap. Siegenthaler, who was waiver exempt, was sent to the Hershey Bears as a result.

Siegenthaler would have to wait until Nov. 9 to finally make his NHL debut. He would go on to play 26 games his rookie season.

“I think a guy like Siegenthaler came up and played really well,” Lars Eller said.

““I tried to play my best game,” Siegenthaler said. “Of course it wasn’t always easy but I think like I did my best and tried to help the team.”

With a deep blue line, Siegenthaler was sent back to Hershey in February, but was recalled late in the season after Michal Kempny suffered a season-ending injury. The call-up, however, was just to have an extra body. As Todd Reirden experimented with the defensive pairs heading into the playoffs, it did not appear he viewed the rookie defenseman as a real option for the playoffs. Despite all the shuffling, Siegenthaler did not get into the lineup until the season finale after Washington had already wrapped up the division crown.

The Caps struggled in the first round against the Carolina Hurricanes, however, prompting changes to the lineup. The defense still struggled with the constant in-game adjustments and a change was clearly needed. Siegenthaler got into the lineup for Game 4. By Game 5, he was playing in Kempny’s spot on the top pair alongside John Carlson.

“He really just seemed very poised,” Eller said. “There wasn't any panic in his game. It's hard to be thrown into a series like that where the stakes are high and I thought he did that really well.”

Still just 22 years old and with a contract that remains waiver exempt for another year, Siegenthaler could enter the 2019-20 season in a position to again have to compete just to make the NHL roster. The possible retirement of Brooks Orpik and speculation over whether Matt Niskanen could be traded, however, leaves the team with spots open on the blue line.

The fact that Siegenthaler was able to go from the AHL to the top pair of the Caps during the playoffs reflects his growth as a player over the course of the year. To expect him to come into next season in a top-pair role would be unfair. Even a top-four role seems unlikely with Kempny likely returning and Nick Jensen taking Niskanen’s spot if he does in fact get traded.

But if the coaches trusted Siegenthaler as a rookie when it mattered most and with him still on an entry-level deal at a time when the team will need to pinch every penny, Siegenthaler will almost certainly be in Washington and not in Hershey for the 2019-20 campaign.

“Next season’s going to be huge,” he said. “I’ll do my best in the summer to keep myself in shape, in even better shape. My goal is to be here a long time and for rest of my career and yeah, just got to work for it.”

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