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Nate Schmidt spent the previous four seasons playing for the Washington Capitals Cheap Marcus Davenport Jersey , and he personally experienced the heartbreak of their recent playoff disappointments. The defenseman understands why many people thought this talented, experienced team might never win a championship.

Schmidt and his many good friends with the Caps are finally in the Stanley Cup Final this week. Only they’re on opposite benches after the Vegas Golden Knights grabbed Schmidt in the expansion draft and wouldn’t give him back.

Schmidt was Washington’s sixth defenseman last season, but he now leads the Golden Knights in ice time. The improbable matchup in Monday night’s series opener puts a bewildered grin on Schmidt’s face.

”Yeah, I don’t think you could have written this up any better for me,” he said Sunday.

Both of his franchises are in the midst of banner years, and Schmidt won’t argue with the idea that he deserves a small part of the credit.

Or maybe the blame.

”I really enjoyed my time in Washington,” Schmidt said. ”I thought that team was special, and we still had a good chance to go and do something, and here they are, proving it.”

Schmidt stops himself as another grin invades his serious interview session.

”I must have been the reason why!” he said. ”I must have been the problem.”

Not likely. Schmidt’s irrepressible personality and two-way acumen have made him one of the Golden Knights’ most valuable players during their improbable inaugural season.

He surpassed his previous career highs with five goals and 31 assists while doing steady work on the back end. Given extensive responsibilities in Vegas after playing a smaller role in Washington, Schmidt has taken a major step forward.

”The perception of your game could be remodeled and redone, and I think that’s the coolest part of what we’ve been able to do here in Vegas,” Schmidt said. ”You have guys that have been able to revamp their image or revamp their style, and for other guys to grow into the players that people may not have thought they could be.”

Schmidt might have had this success in Washington if he had stuck around. He had begun to assert himself in a pairing with John Carlson Malik Jefferson Color Rush Jersey , the Caps’ No. 1 defenseman.

”We were playing together last season, and that’s probably how it would have started out again this season,” said Carlson, who led all NHL blueliners this season with 68 points. ”So there’s a little disappointment from that, but obviously he’s done really well for himself. That’s no surprise. I wish him all the best, but not for these next two weeks.”

Schmidt has been particularly effective in the playoffs. Partnered with former Kings defenseman Brayden McNabb in the Knights’ top pairing, Schmidt has provided energy, timely scoring and strong back-end play while Vegas roared past Los Angeles, San Jose and Winnipeg with just three losses.

Schmidt knows more about the Caps than his teammates, so he realizes the enormity of their task. He’ll lead the Golden Knights’ efforts to minimize Alex Ovechkin’s time and space with the puck.

”He’s a beast,” Schmidt said. ”I played against him in practice for a long time, so hopefully I know a few tendencies of his. But in reality, he’s a player that can shoot the puck from anywhere.”

Schmidt’s unusual perspective on this series is matched only by Vegas general manager George McPhee. Before the Caps fired him in 2014, McPhee acquired many of the players on Washington’s roster – including Schmidt Zack Greinke Jersey , an undrafted free agent out of the University of Minnesota, in 2013.

McPhee acquired him again last summer for Vegas, but Washington general manager Brian MacLellan tried hard to keep him with a post-draft trade. If anybody could have made a deal, it’s these two men, who have known each other for 44 years since their bantam playing days in Guelph, Ontario, followed by college careers at Bowling Green and several years together in Washington’s front office.

Not even a childhood friendship could keep Schmidt away from his new destiny in Vegas.

”We made our selection, and then he called and asked if there’s any way we could do a deal for him to get Schmidt back,” McPhee recalled. ”And I said, `I don’t see anything, but we’ll try to come up with something to give you a chance to say no.’ We made a proposal that I didn’t think would work, and it didn’t work. Our guys liked Schmidt.”

More Stanley Cup coverage: The Cleveland Browns will have three quality running backs in the backfield, which projects to operate in a committee approach. Nick Chubb, the聽No. 35 pick in the draft Cheap Geron Christian Jersey ,聽joins Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson at the position.Johnson led the Browns during the previous season in targets (93), catches (74) and receiving yards (693). He may specialize as a pass-catching back with fewer than the 82 carries he got last year. Still, he's a capable ball-carrier who can handle that many carries.Chubb's production puts a cap on Hyde, who signed as a free agent, as a potential feature tailback. Both players could split the carries evenly.Hyde brings dual-threat qualities to the Browns' running back stable, but the group approach lowers his fantasy ceiling. Cleveland will lean on Chubb as the eventual starter. Based on that notion, we could see the rookie's workload increase in the second half of the season.Takeaway: Jacksonville Jaguars Wide Receiver Unit Will Be a Fantasy Nightmare6 of 10Sam Greenwood/Getty ImagesThe Jacksonville Jaguars allowed their No. 1 wide receiver, Allen Robinson, to hit the free-agent market. He signed with the Chicago Bears and should have WR1 fantasy value.The Jaguars have a plethora of WR2 types, but it's going to take a psychic to predict which pass-catcher becomes a consistent contributor in the aerial attack.聽Jacksonville selected D.J. Chark at No. 61. As a standalone pickup, it's a quality acquisition, but fantasy owners should steer clear. He joins聽Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole, Donte Moncrief and Dede Westbrook among the team's complementary pass-catcher crew.The depth is good news for quarterback Blake Bortles Cheap Derrius Guice Jersey , but fantasy owners need to identify the lead option in the passing game. Despite Chark's second-round draft tag, it's not clear whether he will see consistent targets. The Jaguars don't have a clear-cut WR1 or a highly productive signal-caller.Winner: Wide Receiver D.J. Moore7 of 10G Fiume/Getty ImagesThe Carolina Panthers selected the first wide receiver in the 2018 draft for good reason. The front office traded wideout Kelvin Benjamin to the Buffalo Bills midway through the 2017 season. He took the field as one of quarterback Cam Newton's top pass-catchers during the 2014 and 2016 seasons, missing the year in between because of a torn ACL.Tight end Greg Olsen signed a contract extension through the 2020 season. In 2017, he missed significant time with a foot injury. It's fair to wonder whether we are beginning to聽see signs of wear and tear after 11 years in the league. The three-time Pro Bowler turned 33 in March.聽D.J. Moore will vie for the spot opposite big-bodied Devin Funchess. The Panthers acquired Torrey Smith from the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for Daryl Worley during the offseason. He's a deep threat but lists as a WR3 type.Despite hopeful progression for Curtis Samuel, Carolina spent聽a first-round pick on Moore. Expect him to have every opportunity to emerge as a consistent contributor in the passing game.Loser: Wide Receiver Calvin Ridley8 of 10Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesThe Atlanta Falcons added another asset to their passing game during the first round in wideout Calvin Ridley. As a draft pick, it's a great fit for the Alabama receiver, who runs disciplined routes and knows how to find blind spots in pass coverage. Quarterback Matt Ryan will welcome聽another option who racks up yards after the catch.However,聽Ridley聽did not land at an ideal spot for fantasy football purposes. He would have seen more initial looks with the Panthers, who need a WR2.In Atlanta, Ridley will take a backseat to Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. At tight end, Austin Hooper should also progress as a pass-catcher. Don't forget targets for Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman out of the backfield.聽Despite struggles to score through the air, the Falcons' passing offense ranked No. 8 in yards last season. It's not an offense that needed another pass-catcher to elevate the unit. Ridley likely fell to the Falcons as a great value selection. He will contribute as a rookie, but don't put him on your WR2 radar yet.Takeaway: Josh Rosen Lands in Best Spot Among Rookie Quarterbacks9 of 10Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesUCLA signal-caller Josh Rosen took a slide during the first day of the draft. He shared his candid thoughts with the media."I thought I should've been picked at [No.] 1, 2 or 3 Authentic Martin Fehervary Jersey ," Rosen said. "I dropped, and I was pissed. I was really, really angry. I wasn't really showing it. I was trying to keep calm, cool, composed."Rosen comes into the league with a chip on his shoulder. He's also No. 2 on the depth chart behind a quarterback with a long history of knee injuries. Sam Bradford started two games in the previous campaign with the Vikings.Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer described the 30-year-old's knee as "degenerative" in March.聽Just like Keenum during the past year, Rosen should have a chance to see the field sitting behind Bradford. It's a good spot for a rookie quarterback, with a future Hall of Fame wideout in Larry Fitzgerald still productive in the passing attack.Furthermore, the team will welcome back running back David Johnson to action after he missed 15 games with a wrist injury in 2017. He's聽an above-average receiver out of the backfield.聽Let's compare Rosen's situation to those of the other four quarterbacks selected in the first round.聽Tyrod Taylor doesn't have an extensive injury history, so Baker Mayfield may not see the field as a rookie. Sam Darnold will sit behind two veterans in Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater and has average offensive weapons. If Josh Allen starts over AJ McCarron, he must answer to criticisms about accuracy. For at least a year, Lamar Jackson will sit behind Joe Flacco with the Baltimore Ravens.Winner: Wide Receiver Christian Kirk10 of 10Sam Craft/Associated PressWhether it's Rosen or Bradford in the pocket, wideout Christian Kirk should have an immediate impact. Though J.J. Nelson remains in Arizona, the Cardinals didn't re-sign John Brown .
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