What should Capitals do with Marty Erat?

What should Capitals do with Marty Erat?
November 25, 2013, 2:15 pm
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Caps top 5 plays of the week: 11.25.13

Nov 9, 2013; Glendale, AZ;Washington Capitals left wing Martin Erat chases the puck in the Phoenix Coyotes zone during the second period at Jobing.com Arena.

(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Now that forward Marty Erat has made public what general manager George McPhee and coach Adam Oates have known for weeks, the Capitals need to ask themselves some important questions.

First and foremost, what do you do with a player who demands to be traded?

Secondly, what is the market value of a 32-year-old forward who has no goals and six assists in 23 games?

First some history.

After averaging 17:55 of ice time in Nashville last season, Erat has averaged 13:08 this season, beginning the season on the Capitals’ fourth line for seven games, then getting bumped up to the top line for five games, and down to the second line for 10 more.

McPhee confirmed that Erat asked to be traded a couple weeks into the season and that Erat repeated that request on Saturday after he was made a healthy scratch for the Capitals’ game in Toronto.

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“Marty doesn’t feel like he fits in here,” McPhee said, “and we’ve always told our player that if you don’t feel you fit in and it would be better for your career to be someplace else, let us know and we’ll try to accommodate you. This isn’t the first time we’ve done this and it won’t be the last. We’ll try to accommodate him.”

Oates said Erat’s trade request played a role in him being a healthy scratch in Toronto.

Erat’s contract calls for him to be paid $3.75 million this season and $2.25 million next season, but because it was front-loaded, it carries a $4.5 million cap hit. Erat also has a no-movement clause in his contract. Erat said he has given McPhee a list of teams for which he would play.

“Lots of flexibility,” McPHee said. “He’s been real good about that. He’s been really accommodating. There are no issues there.”

McPhee said the Capitals, who are $1.26 million under the salary cap, would not eat any of Erat’s salary in a trade.

“It’s a good deal,” he said, referring to what another team would take on in salary.

Ironically, the Capitals were on the list of teams Erat gave Predators general manager David Poile when he asked to be traded before last season’s trade deadline. McPhee said he had no problem with Erat asking to be moved less than eight months later.

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“I admire him for it,” McPhee said. “He’s been professional. He’s not pointing fingers or anything like that. He just basically said, ‘These things happen. It’s not working for me and I’d like an opportunity someplace else.’ I said, ‘OK, we’ll try to accommodate you. There’s no promises on when it happens. We’ll see how long it takes.”

With John Erskine’s recovery from offseason knee surgery going slower than anticipated, the Capitals are in the market for a No. 4 defenseman who can play 20 minutes a night. There were rumors last week that the Capitals had an interest in Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn, but with the Flyers winning six of their last seven games those rumors have quieted.

McPhee said he does not think Erat going public with his trade request will decrease his market value.

“He’s a good hockey player and there are teams that would like to have him, so we’ll continue those discussions,” McPhee said. “All I know is it didn’t work for him here. But he’s  good guy, a good player, a good pro. I have no issues with him.

“The other managers in this league are good hockey guys. They know what players bring and what they’re capable of.”

As for what the Caps plan on doing with Erat until a trade is made, the answer from McPhee and Oates was that they’ll allow him to practice with the team until a deal is reached.

“Absolutely,” Oates said. “Deals don’t happen overnight, so you never know. That’s why he has to be professional, because there’s a chance he can play.”

While that does not appear to be likely unless a Capitals forward is injured, right wing Joel Ward said he respects Erat’s decision to ask for a trade.

“It’s tough,” said Ward, who played three seasons with Erat in Nashville. “If he asked for a trade… I know Marty very well. It’s never fun when you’re not playing. Obviously, I respect his decision. I didn’t really know. It sucks when you’re on the sidelines.”

McPhee could have easily told Erat to go home and wait for a trade. Instead, he expects Erat to be ready to play whenever he is needed.

“You never know,” McPhee said. “We might have some injuries, he plays a lot more, plays with different people and it works out. But time will tell.”