Fans love prospects. They're young and full of promise, and you don't watch them play every day, so the flaws are masked. Their ceiling is unlimited, they always will be ready to contribute "soon" and they're cheap, so your favorite team can employ its money elsewhere.

The Capitals decided this week they needed another top-six forward, and they used top prospect Filip Forsberg as the chip in a trade for winger Martin Erat on Wednesday. That kind of move -- young for old -- almost always will be met with howls of protest. Forsberg was the No. 11 pick in the draft last June, a right wing with a cannon of a shot and a bright future who probably never should have fallen to Washington in the first place.

It felt like a coup when he did. But now Forsberg is gone, and fans will wonder whether the return -- a consistent veteran with eight straight seasons between 49 and 58 points -- is enough. Erat is 31 and will have a salary-cap hit of $4.5 million next year.

"They're never easy decisions. It takes some guts to do deals sometimes," Caps general manager George McPhee said. "But we have a real good group of pro scouts and amateur scouts, and you sift through it, and you ruminate over it at night, and then you come back in and you talk about it some more."

McPhee says he made his entire staff vote on the trade independently without any influence, write their decision on a piece of paper and turn it in. When he read through the returns, the vote was apparently unanimous. And so Washington now has a new winger who clearly makes them better in the short term -- but at a price.

- Brian McNally