As the Capitals prepare to kick off the final stretch of the regular season, they’re only a week away from the NHL’s trade deadline at 3 p.m. on March 5. While it’s unknown precisely what moves General Manager George McPhee will or won’t make by that time, there is one player who remains looking for a change of scenery.
Martin Erat, 32, who just returned to Washington after representing the Czech Republic in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, said Wednesday he still wants the Capitals to trade him but declined to elaborate further.
When he met with reporters recently, McPhee said he planned to touch base with Erat but didn’t expect the veteran forward to withdraw his request.
“If he still wants to be traded, we’ll try to accommodate it,” McPhee said, acknowledging that with the NHL salary cap AT a low $64.3 million this season it’s been a challenge to oblige Erat. “It’s been a difficult year with transactions. had this been a typical year, we might have been able to move him within weeks of his request but that wasn’t the case this year.”
The Capitals acquired Erat and prospect Michael Latta from the Nashville Predators in exchange for highly touted first-round draft pick Filip Forsberg in what was a controversial deal at last year’s trade deadline. While Washington had a need for forward depth with Brooks Laich’s status uncertain because of lingering groin injuries at the time, there was never a more defined place for Erat in the lineup and that issue was apparent at the start of training camp this fall.
Erat, who played right wing the vast majority of his first 11 years in the NHL, has never suited up there for the Capitals as they’ve played him on the left side and even tried him at center. For various stretches throughout the season, including the first seven games, Erat played on the fourth line and saw the lowest ice time of his career.
Even with all that in mind, and Erat’s pending trade request, McPhee said he doesn’t regret the approach of trying to help the team currently on the ice even at the cost of a valuable prospect. That’s something to keep in mind as the deadline approaches.
“Sometimes a trade doesn’t go your way. I’m never going to bat a thousand but I will always continue to try and help the club that’s on the ice,” McPhee said. “If there’s something at the deadline that we think is going to help this club that’s been battling all year then we’re going to do it. I will trade picks and young players again to make this team better if that’s what is necessary.”