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How has Martin Erat become the forgotten man so quickly?
At the trade deadline of the 2013 regular season, general manager George McPhee made one of the more unpopular trades in the history of the Washington Capitals when he traded away one of the best prospects in the entire organization, Filip Forsberg, for Martin Erat and Michael Latta.
McPhee made the trade so the Caps could win now. The thought was that Erat would add what the Caps so desperately needed to win that elusive Stanley Cup.
Things did not work out at all. In nine regular-season games with the Caps, Erat had all of one goal and two assists. In the playoffs against the New York Rangers, Erat did absolutely nothing except have a plus-one rating—and he missed the final three games of the series when the Caps could arguably have used him the most.
To recap, Erat was brought to D.C. to help the Caps win the Cup; did very little in 13 games-played; and was not even on the ice during the Game 7 loss to the New York Rangers in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal when he might have made a difference.
Despite the poor start to his career with the Caps, it stood to reason that, given a full training camp and full preseason, Erat would redeem himself. After all, Erat is a really good player. He is relatively young at 32 years old, and he has demonstrated, in the past anyway, that he can score goals.
On the other hand, he has not had a 20-goal season since the 2009-10 campaign. Even when he was in Nashville prior to the trade, he was not the same player who scored 36 goals, had 72 assists and a combined plus-26 the previous two seasons.
What has transpired thus far, however, could not have been anticipated. Erat has spent most of his time so far this season on the Caps' fourth line. When the trade was made, Erat was expected to be on the second line or third, at worst.
He has played in all four of the Caps' games so far and is averaging just over eight minutes of ice time per game. He has no goals, no assists, a minus-one rating and only two shots on goal this season.
By way of comparison, Latta has played in two games so far this season, is averaging six and one-half minutes of ice time per game and also has a minus-one rating. But Latta is all of 22 years old and was a complete surprise to make the team, anyway. Plus, Latta is a physical force when he is on the ice; Erat is not.
As for Forsberg, he has played in two games this year for the Predators; has averaged almost 15 minutes of ice time per game; and has a power-play goal. Yes, it is still early—but that is rubbing salt in the wound a bit.
Naturally, all of this has led to speculation that Erat is now expendable. As CBS Sports reported, though, Erat has not asked for a trade—at least not yet.
Erat does not become an unrestricted free agent until after the 2014-15 season, but I do not think McPhee will wait that long to try and erase this mistake if Erat continues to fail to produce. Personally, I would like to see Erat switched up with Jason Chimera for a little bit to see what, if anything, Erat can do on the third line.
But, if the rapid decline of Erat continues at this pace, don't be surprised if Erat gets dealt sooner rather than later.