The Erat Trade: Surprising, But Logical

Nashville's trade of Martin Erat and Michael Latta to the Washington Capitals gives Nashville a new prospect and, perhaps, a brighter future.

W e discussed it ad nauseam on podcast after podcast after podcast.

There was no reason for the Nashville Predators to give up an asset at the trade deadline. There was no reason to sell the future to satisfy the present.

Every assumption we made was that in a potential trade, Nashville would either be acquiring a rental player in exchange for an asset such as a roster player or a draft pick or Nashville would be sending away a roster player as a rental in exchange for a draft pick.

In no discussion did Martin Erat ever enter in as a possibility. He had a no-trade clause. He had a long-term, expensive contract. He was untouchable.

Apparently, he wasn’t.

In a reminder of the ever-present fact that hockey is a business, that rosters are always in flux, Nashville traded Martin Erat – second in franchise history in virtually every category – along with Michael Latta to the Washington Capitals in exchange for prospect Filip Forsberg. Forsberg – no relation to NHL legend/former Predator Peter – was the 11th overall pick at last year’s draft in Pittsburgh, a draft in which the Predators did not have a first rounder due to last season’s trade deadline acquisition of Paul Gaustad.

According to Predators general manager David Poile, Erat had asked for a trade out. Supposedly, he felt that Nashville was a long way from contending for a Stanley Cup and – at 31 – felt that his time in the NHL was running out. Thus, Erat agreed to waive his no-trade clause to go to Washington. It should be noted that Washington is in 10th place in the Eastern Conference.

At the end of the day – quite literally, as the trade was announced almost 2 hours after the trade deadline had passed – the Predators made out like bandits in the deal.

  • Nashville managed to trade away Erat. While a reliable 50-55 point player over the last 10 years, Erat specifically wanted out of Nashville. Keeping a player around who did not want to be in the system could have eventually proved disastrous in terms of his own ice effort, his future trade value and locker room morale. In addition, Nashville frees up $4.5 million in cap space over the next two seasons, room that could be used to acquire unrestricted free agents or resign players such as Patric Hornqvist or Roman Josi.
  • Nashville acquired a player in Filip Forsberg who is projected to become the elusive top 6 forward that Nashville has been searching for endlessly. Forsberg was the top European prospect at the last draft (Nail Yakupov, due to playing in the CHL, was considered a North American prospect) and was projected by many to be taken in the top 3 picks. Washington “stole” him at 11. He has been playing in Allsvenskan – Sweden’s second-tier professional league – since he was 16 years old.
  • Michael Latta gets a better chance to crack an NHL roster. Without the logjam of third- and fourth-line forwards in front of him in the NHL, Latta may have a clearer shot to make the NHL sooner than he would have in Nashville’s system.
  • The loss of Erat might be noticeable, it might not. In my opinion, his departure will have a negligible effect on the Predators’ current drive to the playoffs. While Erat leaves as Nashville’s leading scorer, his play on the season has been inconsistent at best. Prior to his trade, he had not scored a point in 4 games or a goal in 7. Nashville has struggled remarkably at times on the road this season and Erat played a large part in that: in 19 road games this season, Erat managed to register a point in just 4 of them. 

Yes, Martin Erat seemed like a “lifer” in Nashville, but at the end of the day, he wanted out. David Poile ended up getting arguably a better return on a 50 point player than Calgary’s Jay Feaster got in return for Jarome Iginla…and that says a lot.

While he’s eligible to start immediately due to already being under an entry-level contract, Forsberg probably won’t arrive in Nashville until prospect camp starts in July. At that point, Barry Trotz and his staff will have an idea on how far away he is from putting on a gold sweater at Bridgestone Arena. In a way, the trade solves a bit of a healthy scratch conundrum that would have occurred in the event of Colin Wilson’s return from injury.

There was the oft-discussed question of whether or not Nashville would be buyers or sellers at the deadline…or if they would simply stand pat. Once the smoke had cleared, it was hard to lump the Predators into any of those categories. They also traded defenseman Scott Hannan – a player who never quite found his place with the Predators after signing last offseason – to the San Jose Sharks for a conditional pick. Perhaps most importantly for Nashville, in addition to somewhat retroactively gaining a first round pick in last season’s draft, they pass the trade deadline with their first round draft pick still intact. All teams who miss the playoffs have a chance at the first overall pick. Even if they do miss the playoffs, this year’s draft is considered remarkably deep and the 10th-14th overall spot could still garner a future Nashville staple.

Of course, there’s also that chance that they make the playoffs, too.

Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua

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A native of Franklin, Tennessee, Patten Fuqua is the managing editor of PuckScene.com. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science from Belmont University in Journalism and Broadcasting.