Should Pittsburgh Penguins Consider Trading for Martin Erat?

Franklin Steele@FranklinSteeleAnalyst IINovember 26, 2013

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 05:  Martin Erat #10 of the Washington Capitals skates prior to a game against the Dallas Stars on October 5, 2013 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Anthony Vence/Getty Images)
Anthony Vence/Getty Images

Martin Erat hasn't spent a whole season with the Washington Capitals yet, but he's already demanded to be traded according to various sources, such as The Washington Post. Among other things, he's unhappy with his playing time and doesn't like how head coach Adam Oates has been using him.

The question goes from "What upset Erat so badly?" to "Where could Erat end up playing?" very quickly now that this information is public. There is no list of potential suitors and no rumors have emerged about specific teams inquiring about the disgruntled former 20-goal scorer, so it's only natural to wonder whether or not Erat could be a fit for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It's important to note that this is just speculation on our part, and this is more of an investigation into the possible pros and cons of Erat in a Penguins sweater.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 20:  Martin Erat #10 of the Washington Capitals battles for the puck against Brooks Orpik #44 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second period during an NHL game at Verizon Center on November 20, 2013 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Reaching Across the Aisle

One of the biggest hangups most would have with a deal for Erat is the fact that the Penguins would be sending assets to a divisional rival. Not only that, but it seems clear that Pittsburgh and Washington will be the two teams the Metropolitan Division boils down to.

Would the Caps be willing to ship Erat to the team they'll likely be battling with for home-ice advantage throughout the rest of the season?

In a perfect world, Washington would likely prefer to trade its disgruntled winger to a team that isn't Pittsburgh, but what if the Pens come knocking with a deal the Caps can't turn down? Ray Shero has shown plenty of savvy when it comes to these kinds of pickups, and it isn't tough to imagine him piecing together an enticing package that would help the Caps recoup the youthful talent they gave up for Erat in the first place.

Even if they did come to an agreement, the cap ceiling would force the teams to make a "money for money deal."

Erat's Contract and the NMC

This would be the biggest obstacle for the Penguins if they tried to hash out a deal for Erat. The forward more or less holds his own fate in his hands because he has a no-movement clause. That fact could either harm or help Pittsburgh's case, depending on what Erat thinks of the Penguins.

Apr 23, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Martin Erat (10) celebrates with teammates in the closing seconds against the Winnipeg Jets in the third period at Verizon Center. The Capitals won 5-3 and clinched the Southeast Division ch
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

If he's giving Washington all of six or seven teams to make a trade with, that limits the options for the Caps and makes it a buyer's market.

Usually when players flex their NMC, it's to prevent a trade to a rebuilding team. If Washington tried to move Erat to, say, the Calgary Flames, it isn't hard to imagine him saying thanks, but no thanks. But in Pittsburgh, he'd have a shot at the Stanley Cup (still) and would have a chance to play alongside some world-class centers.

He wouldn't be a rental, either, as there's still one more season remaining on his current contract, and lists Erat's salary at $4.5 million. Pittsburgh has just over $2 million in cap space at the moment, which reinforces the idea that the two teams would need to make a money-for-money swap since Washington isn't in a position to retain much (if any) of Erat's salary.

Pittsburgh's Injury Bug

The reason the Penguins have cap space right now is because of the injury bug that's been chewing through their roster this season. They have had a healthy defense for all of four periods and can't seem to maintain their depth at forward.

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 5: Beau Bennett #19 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the Buffalo Sabres on October 5, 2013 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

This has forced the Pens to shake up their lines while looking for quality wingers for both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Malkin in particular has seen a slew of wingers over the last few years and could use a steady linemate like Erat.

While Erat himself is hardly immune to injury, the Penguins could obviously use another possible top-six forward at this stage of the game, and even once everyone is healthy, more scoring depth is hardly a bad thing.

With the recent news that Beau Bennett will be out for the next two-plus months, Pittsburgh's forward group is starting to look pretty dodgy.

Erat's Untapped Potential

It's easy to look at Erat's track record in Washington and wonder why the Penguins would be interested in him in the first place. He's only scored a single goal for the Capitals and hasn't been effective on any line. That isn't all on Erat, though, as Adam Oates has been utilizing him as a bottom-six forward and has drastically reduced his ice time.

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 22: Martin Erat #10 of the Nashville Predators celebrates his game winning goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets during an NHL game at the Bridgestone Arena on December 22, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHL
John Russell/Getty Images

In Nashville, Erat would play more than 18 minutes a night as one of their few go-to forwards. So far this year, he's barely averaged more than 13 minutes of ice time per game. For a guy that is used to being engaged and seeing a ton of time on the power play, it's not difficult to see why he's struggled to score in Washington.

It also indicates that Erat could be sitting on a bit of untapped potential. If this is a guy that can score 20 goals with David Legwand as his center, what happens when you slot him in next to a guy like Malkin? It's not hard to envision Erat developing into an outstanding second-line option for the Pens.

At What Cost?

Ultimately, the likelihood of a possible swap between the Pens and Caps comes down to Washington's asking price. Since Erat went public with his trade demands instead of keeping things in house, the Capitals aren't exactly in a position of strength in negotiations.

Teams know that the player is disgruntled and wants out of town, pronto.

Would the Penguins be willing to send off another young player to bring in a "win now" piece like Erat? Time will tell, and it'll be interesting to see how things shake down for the Capitals and their irritated player who doesn't like his coach or his captain, regardless of a potential landing spot in Pittsburgh.


    Unearthing gems in later rounds is key for Penguins

    Pittsburgh Penguins logo
    Pittsburgh Penguins

    Unearthing gems in later rounds is key for Penguins

    Chris Bradford

    Patrik Allvin to play key role for Penguins in upcoming NHL draft

    Pittsburgh Penguins logo
    Pittsburgh Penguins

    Patrik Allvin to play key role for Penguins in upcoming NHL draft

    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
    via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    Graduation day nears for Daniel Sprong, other Penguins prospects

    Pittsburgh Penguins logo
    Pittsburgh Penguins

    Graduation day nears for Daniel Sprong, other Penguins prospects

    Jonathan Bombulie

    Blues GM Confirms Kovalchuk Interest, Makes Jagr Comparison

    NHL logo

    Blues GM Confirms Kovalchuk Interest, Makes Jagr Comparison

    James O'Brien
    via ProHockeyTalk