ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals are hoping for a boost to their playoff hopes with a trade bringing them right wing Martin Erat and minor leaguer Michael Latta from the Nashville Predators for 2012 first-round draft pick Filip Forsberg.
Erat leads the Predators with 17 assists and is tied for the first on the club with 21 points this season. He’s played all 723 of his NHL games with Nashville, and ranks second in team history with 163 goals and 318 assists. He listed the Capitals among the teams he would join.
“They have a great team, they just have to show it on the ice,” Erat said on a conference call Wednesday night. “It’s just missing a couple pieces here and (there), but they got the right chance every year.”
After a poor start to the season, winning only two of their first 11 games, the Capitals have slowly moved their way up from last place in the Eastern Conference. Now they are within striking distance for a playoff berth at 10th, two points away from eighth after a 5-3 victory at the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night. That was Washington’s seventh win in its last 11 games.
Captain Alex Ovechkin, a two-time NHL MVP, has led the way during the Capitals’ surge, with at least one point in each of the past nine games. He leads the team with 20 goals and 37 points. Erat is happy enough at being traded that he is willing to do whatever the Capitals ask of him.
“I really don’t care if I play right or left or if I’m going to play on the first or third line,” Erat said. “I just want to win.”
The Predators, who have made the playoffs seven of the last eight seasons, also are on the edge of the Western Conference playoff picture. In Forsberg, they get an 18-year-old forward considered a possible star-in-waiting in exchange for sending off a player in Erat who asked to be traded despite a no-movement clause in his contract.
Erat said he asked Nashville general manager David Poile about the team’s long-term plans a couple weeks ago. The Predators build through the draft with forwards such as Colin Wilson, Patric Hornqvist and Taylor Beck and defencemen Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis. But Erat turns 32 in August. He had a career-high 58 points last season and leaves tied for the Nashville lead with 21 points. But he has only four goals, including a 21-game goal drought.
“They’re going to go with a younger team and see how it goes from there,” Erat said. “But for me, I’m getting older, and … I don’t have seven, eight years to wait for another chance.”
Poile called this trade deadline deal a good move for a franchise that has traded away four first-round picks, including in 2012, for players trying to make a playoff push.
“It was imperative that we add a potentially dynamic offensive forward such as Forsberg,” Poile said in a statement. “Our goal remains the same—to win the Stanley Cup. We believe our current team is a playoff calibre team. At the same time, we have to be mindful of the long-term and this deal allows us to acquire a top-end young offensive forward that will help us.”
This is the second time Nashville has traded for a forward named Forsberg. Trading for Peter Forsberg in 2007 didn’t work out too well as he wound up playing only 17 games that season and scoring 15 points. The Predators won 51 games and earned the No. 4 seed only to lose to San Jose in five games in the first round of the playoffs.
Now the Predators believe they finally have the dynamic young forward in this Forsberg to go with a defence anchored by captain Shea Weber and goalie Pekka Rinne. Forsberg scored 33 points in 38 games in Sweden. Poile said he will be talking to Forsberg’s agent about getting the forward to North America but the general manager sees someone in the 6-foot-1, 188-pound centre who may be NHL-ready soon.
Notes: The Predators also signed Zach Budish (BOO-dihsh) to a two-year entry-level contract. The 6-foot-3, 219-pound right wing will join the team’s AHL affiliate in Milwaukee. Budish, 21, scored 94 points in 129 games in four seasons at the University of Minnesota. … The Capitals assigned defenceman Nate Schmidt to Hershey in the AHL. Schmidt spent the season at Minnesota with Budish and ranked tied for third among NCAA defencemen with 32 points. The Capitals signed Schmidt to a two-year entry contract Tuesday.