How do the Caps respond after the Olympics?
Back in November, when it became clear to him that he would not be getting top-six minutes with the Capitals, Marty Erat walked into the office of Capitals general manager George McPhee and requested a trade.
A few weeks later, when goaltender Michal Neuvirth and defenseman Dmitry Orlov were unhappy with the way they were being used by coach Adam Oates, their agents called McPhee and requested trades.
With the March 5 NHL trade deadline now just nine days away, has there been a change of heart in the Caps’ three unhappy campers?
“Things can change with players,” McPhee said. “With respect to agents, you get five of those – I think every team gets five of those requests every year.
“Someone isn’t playing well or not playing enough, can you give him a chance someplace else? The only thing we put stock in is when a player walks in our office and says to me, ‘I’d like an opportunity someplace else.’ Then you try to accommodate him.
“Sometimes that changes throughout the year. If he starts playing better, he may say, ‘You know what? I was wrong. I want to change my mind.’”
McPhee said Erat is the only Capitals player who directly requested a trade. Erat visited with his wife and newborn daughter in Nashville last week and is expected to be on the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Tuesday.
“I don’t think that’s going to change,” McPhee said of Erat’s request. “I’ll talk to him when he gets back and if he still wants to be traded, we’ll try to accommodate him.
“It’s been a difficult year with transactions. Had this been a typical year we might have been able to move him within weeks of his request, but that wasn’t the case this year.”
McPhee said that Neuvirth and Orlov simply wanted an opportunity to play and now that goaltender Philipp Grubauer is back with the Hershey Bears and Orlov has played 33 straight games he expects both players to remain on the Caps’ roster. McPhee made it clear, however, that having an agent go through the media with a trade request is not advantageous to the player or the team.
“The best way to do it is to come in and talk to the manager,” McPhee said. “To have an agent call, you don’t need that. You should be able to do that. When you go public with those things it always devalues your worth. So a player should refrain from that and sometimes they just don’t.”
At last year’s trade deadline McPhee boldly rolled the dice when he traded one of the Caps’ top prospects, Filip Forsberg, to the Nashville Predators for Erat and center Michael Latta.
Eleven months later it’s looking like a one-sided deal in favor of the Predators.
“Time will tell,” McPhee said when asked if he regrets the trade. “We’ll have to see. You guys will be the judge of that. I’ll have my own opinion of it.
“Sometimes a trade doesn’t go your way. I’m never going to bat a thousand, but I will always continue to try and help the club on the ice.
“If there’s something at the [March 5] deadline that we think can help this club that’s been battling all year we’re going to do it. We’ll trade picks and players to make this team better if that’s what’s necessary.
“Sometimes you’ll make good trades and sometimes you won’t, but we’ll always work our tails off to make the team as good as it can be.”