“Since day one, I didn’t get the chance here, I got traded here to be a top-six player but never got the chance, never played more than 15 minutes in here, and it’s time for me to move on.” – Martin Erat following a recent Capitals practice.
On April 3rd of 2013, answering a request made by Martin Erat, Predators General Manager David Poile pulled the trigger and sent longtime Predator forward Erat, along with prospect Michael Latta to the Washington Capitals in exchange for highly-touted prospect Filip Forsberg. Not even a year later, Erat is looking for an exit strategy in Washington, while Forsberg is still adjusting to the North American style of the game, with stints between the Predators and their AHL club the Milwaukee Admirals. In that short time, many pundits and critics have sought to either justify or disparage the trade, while the results were still too early to call. At this point, with the 32-year old Erat demanding to leave the Capitals for greener pastures, it looks that, unless Michael Latta shows considerably greater promise than expected, that the Predators have clearly won the Erat-Forsberg trade.
Short Samples for Erat-Forsberg, but Clear Story
As made clear with Erat’s statement about his displeasure with the Capitals organization, he hasn’t necessarily been provided with the same opportunities that he was used to with the Predators. Unfortunately for Erat, when you go from an offensively-desperate team like the Predators, seeing top-six, top-power play unit time to the Capitals, still brimming with the likes of Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Green, your share of ice time will undoubtedly shrink.
The stats tell a similar story for Erat; In 36 games with Predators last year, prior to the trade, Erat scored 21 points (4 goals, 17 assists). After the trade to the Capitals, Erat tallied a whopping 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists) in the remaining 9 games of the regular season, while going scoreless in 4 games during the playoffs. The usually consistent forward, who averaged around 50 points per season during the 8 prior seasons to the lockout, has totaled 6 assists and no goals in 23 games this season, while seeing significantly reduced ice time, playing mostly in the bottom-six and spending time in the press box as a healthy scratch.
Although Erat’s less-than-stellar point totals and enthusiasm could be enough for the Predators to be consider winners in this trade on their own, Filip Forsberg is still looking to break out on his own, but appears to be getting significantly closer. Playing ping pong between Milwaukee and Nashville, Forsberg has started to adjust more quickly to the game, finding himself in the better scoring and playmaking opportunities.
In the 12 games that Forsberg has spent with the Predators, on a carousel of lines, he has put up 1 goal and 4 assists for 5 points, while also tallying 6 points (1 goal, 5 assists) in the 4 games that he spent with the Admirals in the AHL. While playing the 4 games in the AHL, Forsberg has shown flashes and consistency more in-tune with the scouting reports prior to the draft.
With Erat looking more desperate to abandon the Capitals, and Forsberg looking more likely to breakout at any second, the Predators are looking like the clear winner in this trade.
Everybody Hates Latta?
But what about Latta? Who? Michael Latta was the third, oft-forgotten piece of the Forsberg-Erat trade. The young center has already seen more games in the NHL, with the Capitals than Forsberg with the Predators, but without the same expectations, many have looked the other way.
Latta, a 3rd-round pick in 2009, put up decent numbers in 2+ seasons with the Milwaukee Admirals, but was rarely considered one of the Predators top offensive prospects on a team with very little hope for offense. Seeing around 8 minutes of ice time, per game, with the Capitals, Latta has had a chance to prove himself ready for the NHL. While not exactly tearing it up, with only 3 points in those 14 games, Latta has made a solid showing as a responsible forward that, for now, looks to have earned a spot on the Capitals roster.
The only glimmer of hope for the Capitals coming from this trade is if Latta becomes more than they expected.