With the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final, we are now learning even more context behind the worst trade in Capitals history.
From PK Subban to James Neal, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston spoke to David Poile about all the big trades the Predators general manager has made to push the team over the top. That includes the April 3, 2013 swap with Washington for offensive dynamo Filip Forsberg.
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According to Poile, Erat, who had spent his entire career in Nashville, demanded a trade while the team was in Edmonton on March 17, 2013. Erat, who had scored 163 career goals in over 700 career games with Nashville, was arguably the Predators’ top offensive player and ranked near the top of all of franchise’s offensive records.
“He comes up to my room and says: ‘I need a change, I don’t think we’re going to win here,”’ Poile said to Johnston. “As a manager, you never want to hear that from anybody. I tried to talk him out of that for basically two or three weeks before I even made a phone call, or what have you, and he said ‘No, I’ve got to get out.’
“So we weren’t going anywhere that year and he had a no-trade contract, and to make it worse he only gave me a few teams.”
According to Johnston, the list was “no more” than five teams and the eventual Southeast Division champion Washington Capitals, who were sputtering under first-year coach Adam Oates, were on that list. The Capitals had several highly-regarded prospects in their system including Forsberg and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
“I called those teams and I said: ‘Here’s what I would take,”’ Poile said. “And actually, in my own mind, I was prepared to wait until July 1 because then Erat would have one more year left on his contract and I thought that maybe might even get us more.
“So I just told the ‘X’ number of teams that this is what I wanted and Washington said ‘yes.’”
At that point, Forsberg, who enters the Stanley Cup Final as Nashville’s leading scorer with eight goals and 15 points, had just been named the best under-20 player of the season in the HockeyAllsvenskan. Forsberg, who finished that season in the second-tier Swedish league with 14 goals and 17 assists, also captained Sweden’s World Junior Championship team which won the silver medal. He also was the most impressive player on the ice during Capitals Development Camp the previous summer and named the best European skater in the 2012 NHL Draft.
“They’re never easy decisions,” McPhee said after the trade. “It takes some guts to do deals sometime. We have a real good group of pro scouts and amateur scouts. You sift through it, ruminate over it at night, you come back in, talk about it some more, and the vote was unanimous to do it. I make them vote independently without any influence. Write it out, put it on a piece of paper, and then I read through [their responses]. It was unanimous to do it.”
Days after many Caps fans revolted about the deal, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun wrote an article further revealing the Caps thinking.
You see, I believe the Caps were going to trade Forsberg at some point no matter what, internally souring on the prospect, a player they no longer viewed as a top center in the making.
Scouts I’ve spoken with have mixed opinions. Some still view him as a top center in the making, at least a No. 2, but others are concerned by his foot speed. The latter is what concerned Washington.
Instead Forsberg has turned out to be one of the fastest skaters in the league for one of the best skating teams in the league, blossoming under Peter Laviolette after Barry Trotz was let go.
“Filip is a guy that got his first opportunity my first year here,” Laviolette said. “Had a terrific first year. Really that, to us, opened our eyes as to how good of a player he was. I think, again, just with opportunity, he’s really shown himself as somebody who wants to be the guy on the front of the rope pulling it, a leader. I think he’s a mature kid for his age. He was back two years ago. So you get somebody who seems like they’ve got experience and maturity. They have a skill set on the ice. Everybody was impressed with him.”
In parts of two seasons in Washington, Erat scored two goals. After demanding a trade from Washington, Erat scored 11 goals with Arizona. He now plays in the KHL.
Additional reporting by Chris Gordon.
Headline photo: Justin K. Aller
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