“Since day one, I didn’t get the chance here,” Erat said Monday following practice in Arlington. “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.”
Frustrated with the way the team utilized him in a limited fourth-line role, Erat, 32, initially asked General Manager George McPhee to trade him in early October. Still without a defined place in the lineup through the first quarter of the season, the Czech native reiterated his request last week. He decided to make his desire for a trade public after he was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career Saturday night in Toronto.
“It was long coming, starting from the training camp,” Erat said. “I never get any chance, any look. It’s time for me to go.”
McPhee said he is trying to oblige Erat’s request, but it’s unclear how long it will take for a deal to come together, especially now that the entire NHL knows the veteran winger is looking to depart Washington.
Erat has a full no-movement clause in his contract and would need to approve any trade, but McPhee said he doesn’t expect that to be a problem because the winger has been “flexible.”
“Marty doesn’t feel like he fits in here,” McPhee said. “We’ve always told our players — and our policy for 15 years or so — if you don’t feel like you fit in, if you feel like it’d be better for your career to be someplace else, let us know and we’ll try to accommodate you.”
In 23 games this season, Erat has zero goals and six assists. His current contract, which carries a $4.5 million salary cap hit, runs through the 2014-15 season, but his salary is $3.75 million this season and $2.25 million the next. Teams can retain salary of a player to facilitate a trade, but McPhee said he would not consider keeping any of Erat’s salary in a move.
The discrepancy between cap hit and salary may make Erat a palatable acquisition for teams that need to reach the salary cap floor, though. According to Capgeek.com, there are eight teams with enough salary cap space to acquire Erat: Florida, Colorado, the New York Islanders, Calgary, Ottawa, Buffalo, Edmonton and Erat’s former team, Nashville.
Washington acquired Erat and fourth-line center Michael Latta from the Nashville Predators at the trade deadline last season in exchange for forward Filip Forsberg, a 2012 first-round draft pick who at the time was the second-best prospect in the Capitals’ system.
It was a move that went against McPhee’s long history of building the roster through the draft and cultivating young talent, but he wanted to bolster the team’s top-six forward depth entering the postseason, especially with Brooks Laich out because of a lingering groin injury.
But with Laich healthy and back in the lineup this season, Coach Adam Oates has admitted he has struggled to determine where Erat fits in.
“I’ve said that from day one that we’ve got a logjam at certain positions that makes for very difficult decisions,” said Oates, who is no stranger to the business side of the game. During the course of his playing career, Oates demanded a trade from St. Louis and sat out briefly over a contract dispute with the Capitals. The coach said he would have no problem playing Erat if the team needed him in the future.
“The only problem it would ever be [is] if it turned into a sideshow,” Oates said. “He’s not that type of person.”
After averaging 18 minutes 55 seconds of ice time with the Predators last season, Erat — who played the first 10 seasons of his career predominantly at right wing but was moved to the left side in Washington — skated just 13:55 on average over nine regular season games with the Capitals. This season, his ice time dipped further, to an average of 13:08, with no special-teams play.
“It’s the way it goes. They just give me straight signal like I don’t fit here,” Erat said. “That’s for me time to go. It’s black and white. It’s time for me to go.”
Capitals note: Washington recalled defensive prospect Dmitry Orlov from the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears on Monday and reassigned defenseman Tyson Strachan to the AHL.