The Capitals knew Martin Erat wasn’t happy with his lack of ice time and limited role this season, but most of them learned the extent of his discontent Monday when the veteran winger made it public that he has requested to be traded.
Erat was on the ice for Tuesday’s practice as usual, skating as an extra forward. He was a healthy scratch against Toronto over the weekend, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him remain one until he can be traded or injuries require the Capitals put him back in the lineup.
It’s an awkward situation, certainly, to have one player who has clearly expressed his desire to leave. But to a man, the Capitals downplayed the oddity, saying that they respect Erat’s right to demand a better situation for himself if he chooses and that he’s still their teammate.
“That’s one person’s right as a hockey player. I think all of us in here respect it,” Braden Holtby said. “We know Marty’s a great player and he has been for a while, and we all think so. We all want to see him succeed and play based on the type of person he is. We’d love to have him here, obviously everyone loves him in the dressing room, but in the end it’s his life, he wants to perform, he wants to accomplish his goals and we respect that.”
It helps, players said, that Erat is a well-respected veteran with a long career. He’s played in the NHL for 11 years, skated in 755 career regular season games . Nobody expects him to make the situation a distraction for the group.
“If you’ve every met the guy, you know he’s absolutely harmless,” Holtby added. “He never says a bad word about anyone and it’s not like it’s a surprise in our dressing room that this has happened.”
They also understand that if any player isn’t receiving a significant opportunity to play, frustration can lead to trying to take control of the situation.
“Marty, he’s got a lot of pride,” Troy Brouwer said. “He wants to play and he wants to be an impact [player] on his team. Right now he’s not being used in that way, and so he wants to move on and he wants to play, he wants to play good minutes and be a guy that’s sought after to be a cornerstone of a team. You can’t blame a guy for wanting to play.”
This is the business side of professional sports. Players asking for trades isn’t a new phenomenon and most in the dressing room have experience in a situation where someone wanted to move on, even if they don’t always go public with the demands.
“For us, we are players,” Alex Ovechkin said. “Tomorrow maybe I’m going to be healthy scratch — you never know what’s going to happen. Maybe tomorrow I’m going to be traded. It’s a business. Capitals going to be forever, we’re going to be here until time’s going to be up.”