Wednesday, 3 April 2013

We May Have To Wait On This One

Today would mark the second time that the Nashville Predators acquired a Forsberg in a trade deadline deal, but idea that the Washington Capitals would deal away one of their top prospects in Filip Forsberg for a depth player and a centerman who may or may not ever play in the NHL seems a little crazy. While the Capitals have some excellent centermen on their roster, it's not a common practice to see NHL general managers deal one of their top prospects for what appears to be a couple of depth forwards. So what gives?

Martin Erat has been a mainstay on the Predators roster since his debut with the NHL club in 2001 after having been drafted by Nashville in 1999. Since the lockout in 2004-05, Erat has consistently put up point totals ranging between 49 to a career-high 58 points last season. The 31 year-old winger will give you 20 goals each season while playing in all situations, and he was a useful and reliable foot soldier for coach Barry Trotz in Music City. The Predators had rewarded his work with a contract worth $4.5 million annually, so it seemed like Erat would be a fixture.

However, something changed along the way for Erat, and he approached the Nashville management team about a week ago with the wish for them to explore a trade out of Nashville. GM David Poile posted this statement on the team's website,

"It is always difficult to trade a player who was drafted, developed and who has produced for the franchise for many years such as Martin Erat, however, Marty came to us in recent days and indicated a trade might be in his best interests. Thus, the process began and we were able to explore options with our primary goal being to acquire a young top end forward that would address our most critical need. We thank Martin for all his contributions to the Predators’ success over the years and wish him and his family the best in Washington."
And with that, Erat is on his way to Washington to join Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, and the rest of the Washington Capitals. This has to be somewhat of a concern to the Predators after Ryan Suter snubbed the team's request to match an offer in favor of the Minnesota Wild's bloated contract. Now another of the team's marketable stars has demanded his exit. What gives?

There is no doubt that Barry Trotz and the Predators play a defence-first system that really accentuates the sum being greater than the team's individual parts. Perhaps Erat felt stifled offensively in the system that Trotz uses much like Alex Radulov seemed to indicate when he left Nashville for a second time. It seems that Erat believed that Nashville was going younger and he needed to find a team that was closer to winning, similar to Ryan Suter's decision to leave Nashville. Washington could arguably be closer, but the standings this season seem to indicate differently.

Will Erat be better in Washington? Will he be allowed to flourish under Adam Oates' watch alongside the offensive talent that Washington has? Heck, will he even see the playoffs this season with Washington currently outside the playoff picture?

Nashville, in their defence, did pick up one of the best young prospects not in the NHL right now in Filip Forsberg. Forsberg has 33 points in 38 game with Leksands IF in the Swedish Elite League, so the 18 year-old looks like he'll be a solid addition to a Predators lineup if and when he arrives in town. While there are no guarantees on how good he'll be, you get the sense that GM Poile will give Forsberg a lot of slack when it comes to developing his game. And you know that Barry Trotz will play a large role in developing the young man's talent at both ends of the ice. Considering that Nashville didn't have a first-round pick last season, I'd say that picking up one of the best prospects in the draft is a pretty smart move.

Looking at Washington, you have to wonder if they made a good move in giving up Forsberg for Erat. Erat will produce and has stated that he doesn't care where he's slotted into the lineup in Washington because he simply wants to win, but Washington gave up a young player that could have fit into their lineup nicely with his offensive abilities. After being a key member of the 2012 Swedish World Junior squad that won gold in Calgary, he was the 11th-overall pick in last year's draft, but many believe that he has the skill to be a solid NHL player.

While it's too early to say that either team won in this trade, you'd give the nod to Washington simply due to the fact that they acquired a veteran NHL player who has consistently delivered throughout his career thus far. It will, however, remain to be seen how the career of Filip Forsberg develops, and if he can cash in on the blue-chip label that was used to describe him. If he can, this trade may swing heavily in Nashville's favor.

Of course, we may have to wait to see how this trade shakes down if neither of these teams qualify for the playoffs this season.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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