Nashville General Manager David Poile didn’t want to trade Martin Erat. The veteran winger had been an important part of the Predators’ lineup and organization for 11 seasons, helping the team reach the postseason in seven of the past eight years.
But as the Predators struggled this season without Ryan Suter, who departed as a free agent last summer, and started trying to rebuild on the fly, integrating more young players into the roster, Erat asked to be traded.
Nashville sits in 10th place in the Western Conference, just a point out of eighth, but Erat felt as though he would have a better opportunity to pursue playoff success and a Stanley Cup elsewhere.
“It’s never good to hear that somebody doesn’t want to play for you anymore; you can’t sugarcoat that,” Poile told reporters in Nashville Wednesday. “Marty has been a good player for us; he has been a good person. I’m disappointed it ended this way, but we got a lot of good service out of him, and he played hard, and if you don’t believe you don’t believe. I don’t like it, but it’s time to move on, and we’ve dealt with it and moved on.”
Understandably the rest of Nashville’s roster didn’t take kindly to one of the organization’s longtime players asking to leave.
“We want guys here that want to play and want to be part of this team, that want to win, and that wasn’t the case with Marty,” Nashville center Mike Fisher said according to a tweet from John Glennon of The Tennessean.
Erat, 31, wanted to make a change that would allow him to join a team that he believed could compete in the postseason. Thursday morning after his first skate with the Capitals, Erat expressed his excitement toward a new opportunity.
“As a hockey player you never going to get younger. You want to have a chance to play for a Stanley Cup every single year, Washington is one of the places where you have a chance,” Erat said. “It was their choice. [Nashville] try to get younger and that’s what happened there. For me, I want to play for a Stanley Cup and that was my choice.”
The challenge for Erat will be transitioning to a new team for the first time in his career after playing the first 723 games of his NHL career with the Predators.
The Capitals, especially former Predators Joel Ward and Jack Hillen, believe Erat will be able to fit into the lineup and dressing room without any major hiccups.
“He’s an all-around, two-way player, works hard, has a lot of skill. It’s the old adage: When skill works hard, it can be very tough to beat,” Hillen said. “I really like Marty; I think he’s a great player, and more importantly he’s a good character guy, a good leader in the room, a veteran presence. I’m really happy that we picked him up. It’s a good move; I like him a lot.”
General Manager George McPhee asked Ward for his input on Erat’s personality before he made the trade. Ward vouched for the veteran winger’s character, work ethic and said they had a good relationship in Nashville. Erat, while not necessarily the most vocal presence in a dressing room, also was respected as a leader by example for the Predators.
“He does lead by example, and a good one at that,” Ward said. “If he has to be vocal at times and speak up and he will. But I mean, he’s definitely not going to be an in-your-face, rah-rah type of guy, but his work ethic shows a lot. He really cares about winning and wants to do the right thing.”
While a position as a leader won’t necessarily translate from one team to another, Erat’s attention to detail and work ethic are valuable addition the Capitals say.
“In that system [in Nashville] everyone on their team has been held accountable for as long as they’ve been in Nashville,” Troy Brouwer said. “They’ve gotten really good at playing good team defense and they’re very responsible. To go with his skill he should be a really good acquisition for us.”