Earlier today, Washington Capitals winger Martin Erat made known his request for a trade. Yes, you read that correctly: Erat has now asked for a trade twice in eight months. The first time around, the Nashville Predators obliged and dealt him to the Capitals in return for top prospect Filip Forsberg and tenacious center Michael Latta.
The trade initially angered the Washington faithful, who believed Erat’s former team got the better end of the deal. Erat was a top-six forward with the Preds, but it’s difficult to compare Nashville hockey to its Washington counterpart. The Czech native also carries a significant cap hit, which doesn’t help the cap situation in D.C.
It was understandably difficult to see the upside, as George McPhee had seemingly dealt away one of the Capitals’ top prospects for an aging forward and a young, brash AHL player (notice the absence of defensemen.) Secondary scoring has been a concern, especially since Alex Semin left for Carolina. As for Evgeny Kuznetsov? Your guess is as good as mine, which is as good as McPhee’s–not good at all.
But Erat’s numbers are most troubling. Before last season’s injury, he scored one goal for the Caps. Considering he was brought in to help boost the team’s offense–as a veteran, no less–that’s not very impressive. In nine games this season, Erat has zero goals and six assists. While Forsberg’s potential is in no way a guarantee of future success, it’s important to remember that players age. It’s likely that a good deal of the Caps won’t be with the team, which currently boasts depth among its forwards. However, the majority aren’t reliable top-six material, which only highlights the need for a player like Forsberg.
And if the Capitals are so flush when it comes to forwards, then why did they pick up Erat? He’s hardly an impact player, especially among a team with depth at his natural position of right wing. As a result, Adam Oates has moved him to the left wing and even center–all with limited success. Erat isn’t being allowed to play to his potential, especially with constant changes in his linemates. Let’s not forget that he spent quite a bit of time on the fourth line. Is that really worth $4.5 million?
No, and the Capitals organization knows this. The irony here is that Erat was brought in as a short-term solution to a long-term problem, but now the short-term is proving difficult to endure. As a result, both parties are feeling the sting, and Erat let it be known that he’s asked for a trade.
If the Caps set out to trade Erat, they should be looking for a top-four defenseman. There really isn’t much else that can be said about the lack of depth in that area. Unfortunately, there are few quality blueliners on the market–and even fewer that Washington could afford. If shopping for a defenseman isn’t an option, then McPhee should approach the situation like he almost always has: drafting promising prospects, allowing them to develop, and then integrating them into the Capitals’ lineup when they are ready.
Where is Martin Erat in the Washington Capitals’ future? Based on past history, present woes, and future concerns, it’s fair to say that he won’t have a future in D.C. With reported interest in Erat, the Caps will hopefully be able to snag a quality player. But it’s now common knowledge that Erat wants to leave Washington and Washington wants to find a replacement for him, so McPhee is in a tough position.
Beggars can’t be choosers, and the Capitals’ situation at hand is a perfect example of this.