The Capitals never really got to see forward Martin Erat last season.
A late trade deadline – thanks again, NHL lockout – left just 12 regular season games before the Stanley Cup playoffs. Erat missed three of those with a left knee injury and a dislocated left elbow ended his season in the middle of Game 4 against the Rangers.
The trade that brought him in from Nashville was controversial given that top prospect Filip Forsberg was the cost. Erat will turn 32 next week so the Caps must hope he serves as a steady top-six forward this year.
He is certainly versatile. And that will help coach Adam Oates fill out his lineup. It’s expected that Erat will serve as the left wing on a line with center Brooks Laich and right wing Troy Brouwer. But his presence will also be required on the power play and the penalty kill.
Erat posted eight consecutive years with between 49 and 57 points for Nashville before last year’s shortened campaign saw him drop to five goals and 19 assists (24). Is he realistically still a 50-point player? Laich isn’t a prototypical playmaking center like Mike Ribeiro, who served in that role last season.
But that remains to be seen. First, the Caps want a healthy Erat back on the ice. While he returned from the knee injury suffered in his second game with Washington, it’s also true he never quite looked as advertised.
Erat didn’t record a point in 11 different games after his return, including the series against New York before hurting his elbow. He had a goal and an assist in an April 16 win over Toronto and an assist two days later at Ottawa. That’s it. That’s the list.
That won’t play this season. The Caps need more production from a top-six forward. So were Erat’s struggles based on injury and adjusting to a new city and new team? To be fair, there were flashes of the player they expected. And surgery wasn’t needed for his knee or his elbow so Erat should be healthy for training camp.