Good morning and welcome to the Dart 4-Pack of Fan Questions, where we provide answers to your most pressing questions regarding the Washington Capitals.
Let’s get started:
How does Martin Erat compare to Filip Forsberg in terms of potential impact on the team? Are the Caps better off for the trade?
Good questions. This is one of those deals that can’t be judged for several years because at 18 we simply don’t know how good Forsberg will be. The Predators plan on putting him right into their lineup, so that will be a good indication of where he is in his development. There were concerns about Forsberg’s readiness for the NHL because he was playing in Sweden’s Tier 2 league and not at the elite level. There also may have been some reservations over whether Forsberg has NHL speed. After one game of watching the 31-year-old Erat Capitals coach Adam Oates pointed out the same thing I noticed: he has a high hockey IQ and put himself in excellent position, especially in the defensive zone. Erat is also a very good skater has been remarkably consistent in his NHL career, posting between 49 and 58 points in each of the past eight seasons. He also plays the power play and penalty kill, so he should make an immediate impact. Preds GM David Poile wanted to include a draft pick instead of a prospect but the Caps insisted on Michael Latta, a gritty 21-year-old center who projects as a third or, more likely, fourth-line center who has some sandpaper to his game, much like a Matt Hendricks. To answer your second question, yes, the Caps are better off because of this trade. And they are deep enough at right wing to not miss Forsberg in the immediate future.
Did the Caps do enough at the trade deadline?
If you’re a fan, teams never do enough. Would it have been nice to land a Jarome Iginla or Jason Pominville or Marian Gaborik? Sure. But the Caps’ biggest need was a goal-scoring left wing. Erat is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer but he should provide a nice offensive boost for a team talented enough to win a mediocre Southeast Division. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise for the Caps this season has been the play of their blue line. It was considered a weakness at the start of the season, but John Erskine, Tom Poti, Jack Hillen, Steve Oleksy and Tomas Kundratek have all played better than expected and the Caps are now eight or nine deep on the blue line heading into the stretch run.
Who were the winners and losers at the trade deadline?
Who thought there would come a day when the Columbus Blue Jackets would be make the biggest splash at the trade deadline? The Jackets were big-time sellers last season, losing Jeff Carter and Rick Nash. This year they acquired Marian Gaborik from the Rangers. The Jackets are one point out of a playoff spot and are telling their fans they can win now. The Ottawa Senators pulled off a steal by sending goalie Ben Bishop to the Lightning for 23-year-old center Cory Conacher, who has the potential to be a 30-goal scorer for the next eight to 10 years. The Bruins missed out on Jarome Iginla, but they nabbed Jaromir Jagr, the anti-Bruin, for a pair of prospects. Iginla would have been a better fit but Jagr gives the Bruins a dynamic they’ve never had. And, yes, the Penguins were the biggest winners, adding Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray. Once Sidney Crosby comes back it will be tough to derail the Pittsburgh Express. As for losers, the Calgary Flames fire sale concluded with Jay Bouwmeester going to St. Louis, putting general manager Jay Feaster on thin ice. The Red Wings also struck out in their attempts to land Iginla, Jagr and Bouwmeester, leaving them a little thin on the blue line. And the Winnipeg Jets did nothing to stop the freefall that could land them out of the playoffs after spending the past few weeks atop the Southeast Division.
What should fans expect as far as Mike Ribeiro's future? Will he be around next season?
Another excellent question. The Caps tried to sign Ribeiro at their price – reportedly three years at $14 million – and Ribeiro declined, figuring he could get more from the Caps or another NHL team after the season. Ribeiro is in a tricky position because a lot of teams want to see what he does down the stretch and in the playoffs before investing five years and $25 million on him. If Ribeiro can continue to produce offensively and be defensively responsible in Adam Oates’ system I think he stays in Washington. But it will need to come at no more than $5 million a season and no more than four years.