The Capitals acquired forward Martin Erat and a prospect from the Nashville Predators at the NHL trade deadline on Wednesday in exchange for top prospect Filip Forsberg.
Erat, 31, is a right wing who has scored four goals and 17 assists this season for Nashville. He is also a left-handed shot and could make the transition to left wing. Washington has used Alex Ovechkin and Troy Brouwer as its top two right wings this season. Erat still has two years left on his contract with an annual $4.5 million salary-cap hit.
“He’s a real good veteran player, terrific speed, plays the game right,” Caps general manager George McPhee said. “Real committed on and off the ice, works hard on and off the ice.”
Washington also acquired prospect Michael Latta, 21, who was with Nashville’s AHL affiliate in Milwaukee. He is a center with nine goals and 26 assists in 2012-13. Latta was the Predators’ third-round pick in the 2009 draft, 72nd overall. Latta is a combative forward who also has 184 penalty minutes this season.
Forsberg, 18, was selected with the 11th pick in the 2012 draft and was rated the organization’s No. 2 prospect by The Hockey News last month. The right wing is considered one of the game’s top prospects and it was a surprise at the time that he fell that far in the draft. He played for Leksands in the Allsvenskan, Sweden’s second division.
McPhee acknowledged on Friday that an immediate jump to the NHL for Forsberg was unlikely. He doesn’t turn 19 until Aug. 13 and is listed at a generous 6-foot-1, 188 pounds. McPhee said last week the organization wanted to bring Forsberg over at the end of this season to play at AHL Hershey.
“Is it worth it?” McPhee said when asked about giving up a prospect of Forsberg’s level. “We’re looking at our hockey club and saying we’d like to add another top-six forward if we can and how soon will Forsberg be able to play and the right side [of the organization] is pretty stacked right now.”
Erat is a Czech Republic native. The 6-foot, 196-pound forward led Nashville in points (21) and assists (17) at the time of the trade – though the Predators have struggled this season. He is an 11-year NHL veteran and has scored between 16 goals and 23 goals every year since 2003-04. Eight times he has finished between 49 and 58 points. Erat also has solid Stanley Cup playoff experience with 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 46 career postseason games.
Erat was teammates with current Caps right wing Joel Ward in Nashville for three years and defenseman Jack Hillen last season. He had already agreed to waive his no-movement clause when Nashville general manager David Poile informed him about a potential trade.
“It’s about trying to be a good team now and in the future,” McPhee said. “The players have been playing really well. We weren’t going to be sellers. And I thought I’d help them out if we could, add another player and we did.”
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