Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, the No. 1 target of the Rangers as Wednesday’s NHL trade deadline approaches, is expected to play at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night — but not as a Blueshirt.
The St. Louis Blues dealt Shattenkirk, 28, the most prized defenseman on the market, to the Washington Capitals on Monday night. The Capitals already lead the NHL with 89 points (41-13-7).
Only a few details needed to be worked out, the reports said, and Shattenkirk was told he will be in the lineup on Tuesday night, TSN reported.
Shattenkirk, a New Rochelle native who grew up a Rangers fan, will be an unrestricted free agent in July and could prove to be just a rental for the Capitals, who clearly are going all-in for a chance at the Stanley Cup.
The Blues, who would have lost Shattenkirk — a premier offensive force who has 11 goals and 42 points in 61 games — to free agency for nothing if they had kept him, will receive a first-round draft pick in 2017, a second-round pick in 2018 and forward Zach Sanford.
Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton now will shift to Plan B before Wednesday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.
The Rangers still hope to add a defenseman, and the first fallback position appears to be Detroit’s Brendan Smith, who also is 28. Other available blueliners include Buffalo’s Cody Franson and Philadelphia’s Mark Streit.
Gorton also could be in the market for a veteran forward as a rental. It is believed that as many as 10 teams have inquired about the availability of Coyotes right wing Radim Vrbata, 35, who is 15-31-46 this season. The Rangers have plenty of salary-cap space and lower-round picks and prospects to offer.
Meanwhile, defenseman Kevin Klein’s back spasms have kept him out for three games. He didn’t practice on Monday, when the team was off after playing five games in eight days.
Klein, 32, whose name has been mentioned in trade speculation because of his favorable contract (one year remaining at $2.9 million) and the probability that he will be made available for the Las Vegas expansion draft in June, is not expected to dress when the Capitals visit. Adam Clendening, 24, who has capably subbed for Klein on the third defense pair with Brady Skjei, presumably could start against the Capitals.
There is some question about the availability and effectiveness of center Mika Zibanejad, who was favoring his left arm and in pain on the bench after being hit by a shot late in the 5-2 loss to Columbus on Sunday. The team had nothing to report on his status on Monday.