Should McPhee take the heat for Erat trade?

Should McPhee take the heat for Erat trade?
November 26, 2013, 7:00 am
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Caps top 5 plays of the week: 11.25.13

I don’t agree with every personnel move that Capitals general manager George McPhee makes, just as I’m pretty sure he doesn’t agree with everything I write.

But, unlike everyone else in Caps Nation, I’m not about to hang McPhee out to dry for trading first-round draft pick Filip Forsberg to the Nashville Predators for forwards Marty Erat and Michael Latta.

Not even with the benefit of hindsight.

On Monday, about 30 minutes after Erat said he wants the Capitals to trade him, McPhee was asked to explain his reasoning for acquiring Erat prior to last year’s NHL trade deadline.

“I’ve always believed you’ve got to give your team the best chance you can give it going into the playoffs,” McPhee said. “Right at the deadline we missed Brooks [Laich] a lot and didn’t know if he’d be able to complete the season and we made a deal to help the team, because you never know what year it’s going to be that your team advances and goes all the way.

“You want to give your team the best opportunity possible and we will always do that. You can’t have the guys work their guts out all year and then not help them out at the deadline if there’s something there to help them out.

“And so we made that deal. No regrets. We did what we had to do then and we’ll do what we have to do now.”

[RELATED: Adam Oates has been in Marty Erat's skates]

If you want to throw stones at McPhee for making a bold move in an attempt to improve a team that went 15-2-2 down the stretch and entered the playoffs as the NHL’s hottest team, that’s certainly your right. I’m just not joining in.

At the time of that April 3 trade, Laich was one game away from being shut down for the remainder of the season. He missed the playoffs as well.

“We didn’t know at the end of the year,” McPhee said Monday in a moment of revelation, “whether Brooks would be back this year.”

With that in mind, the Capitals desperately needed a veteran forward who could be counted on, not only for a playoff run, but possibly for the next few seasons.

Erat had asked Predators general manager David Poile to trade him and included the Capitals on the list of teams for which he would play.

McPhee did what every fan wants to see their general managers do. He rolled the dice.

Almost eight months later the trade has the potential to be terribly lopsided, especially in the aftermath of Erat’s assertion that it’s “time to move on.”

[MORE: Capitals' Martin Erat: 'I want to be traded']

Forsberg, 19, remains a top prospect for the Predators with top-line potential. He played 12 games with the Predators and recorded one goal and four assists before they sent him to the AHL Milwaukee Admirals, where he has one goal and five assists in four games.

Erat, 32, managed no goals and six assists in his first 22 games with the Capitals before he found himself a healthy scratch for the first time in his career. And Latta, 22, has one goal and two assists in his first 14 NHL games.

Does Forsberg have a greater upside than Latta, who is projected no higher than a third-line center?


Will the Caps get a whole lot in return for Erat, who carries a cap hit of $4.5 million this season and next?

Probably not.

But McPhee saw an opportunity to improve a team in the midst of a late-season push and he pulled the trigger. Seems to me he’d be damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t.