With apologies to the Righteous Brothers, Martin Erat has lost that loving feeling for ol’ D.C. If he ever had it in the first place.
“It is time for me to go,” Erat said.
A website in Erat’s native Czech Republic, iDNES.cz, first reported his desire to move on after his brief time with the Caps. Erat didn’t make any attempt to duck the issue in a brief interview with the local press Monday.
“Yes, I want to be traded, see how it goes,” Erat said. “Since the day one, I didn’t get the chance here. I got here to be a top-six player but never got the chance, never played more than 15 minutes. It is time for me to move on.”
McPhee and coach Adam Oates said they were not upset with Erat’s demand to be traded. Both praised his handling of the situation and McPhee said he is working on taking care of it. Erat sat out Saturday’s game in Toronto as a healthy scratch, a move Oates said was related to the request. But Oates did not rule out Erat playing again for the Caps as long as he remains part of the organization.
“Marty doesn’t feel like he fits in here and we’ve always told our players that if you don’t feel like you fit in and it would be better for your career to be someplace else, let us know and we will try to accommodate you,” McPhee said. “This isn’t the first time we’ve done this and it won’t be the last. We’ll try to accommodate him.
“I admire him for it. 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.’ There’s no promises on when it happens. We’ll see how long it takes.”
The Caps sent Filip Forsberg, at the time rated the No. 2 prospect in their system, to the Predators for Erat and prospect Martin Latta. Nashville was the only NHL team Erat had played for and he had a streak of eight straight seasons with at least 16 goals. But that ended last year. He had four goals in 36 games when he was traded and added one in nine games with the Caps.
This season, Erat started on the fourth line and was eventually moved up to the second line. But he has produced only six assists in 23 games, and three came in one contest.
“It’s just the way it goes, they just give straight signal,” Erat said. “I do not fit here.”
Despite the lack of production last season and this, McPhee insists Erat still has some value. He’s likely not to bring a prospect of Forberg’s level in return this time. The team that takes on Erat will take on a salary cap hit of $4.5 million on a deal that runs through next season.
“He’s a good hockey player and there are teams that would like to have him,” McPhee said, “so we’ll continue those discussions. All I know is it didn’t work for him here. But he’s a good guy, a good player, a good pro. I have no issues with him.”
Oates at first said “you guys just talked about it with George, no sense in me going there,” but he did go there for a while. While praising Erat’s professionalism, Oates noted the player had two injuries after joining the team last year. This year, the return of Brooks Laich from injury and the addition of Mikhail Grabovski through free agency altered the team’s chemistry.
“He came from Nashville playing first power play. He came here, you’re not first power play,” Oates said. “So there’s four minutes right there. They are quality minutes and that affects production. Unfortunately he got hurt, twice, for us. He never got a chance to get his legs going.”
He didn’t expect Erat’s continued presence to be a problem. These things happen, Oates noted. He requested trades a couple of times during his Hall of Fame playing career. If Erat isn’t moved soon, Oates said there would be no hesitation to put him in the lineup again.
“Only problem would be is if it turned into a sideshow,” Oates said, “and he’s not that type of person. As a coach, my job is to be a pro, too. He’s been nothing but a pro about it.”
Said Erat, “It is my job and I’m going to prove to everybody if I can to try and play as best as I can. But right now, for me, it is time to look at different options.”
McPhee said taking on Erat was right for the Caps at the time. Forsberg, 19, has one goal and four assists in 12 games for Nashville this season. Latta is playing regularly for the Caps on the fourth line. He has a goal and two assists in 14 games.
“No regrets,” McPhee said. “We did what we had to do then and we’ll do what we have to do now.”