Let's set the OTF Wayback Machine to October of 2006, a night when the Nashville Predators manhandled the Phoenix Coyotes on home ice. It was one of my first times attending a Preds game, and besides names I was familiar with long before moving to Nashville like Jason Arnott and Paul Kariya, a certain forward really caught my eye:
Martin Erat might be the Preds' most dangerous offensive player, with a good combination of speed and soft hands.
Erat was on his way to a 57-point season that year, playing on what may have been the most dynamic line in franchise history, with Kariya and David Legwand. Since that time he's been a consistent presence among Nashville's offensive leaders, providing highlight moments, and stretches wherein he carried the team on his back for weeks at a time. He stands second all-time on the franchise list in games played, goals, assists, and total points.
Today, however, his run in Nashville came to an end.
Evaluating the Trade
It's tough to come up with a simple "who wins, who loses" balance when underlying circumstances like a player's demand motivate a trade, as we all saw most recently with Jarome Iginla's trade to Pittsburgh, which netted only a modest return for the Calgary Flames because they had no negotiating leverage.
In today's case, David Poile does deserve credit for landing one of hockey's most highly-regarded prospects in Filip Forsberg:
Make no mistake, however, certainly for this season's playoff run, the Predators have lost a top player without picking up anything that will help them right now. It's a "present-for-future" type of deal that will hopefully pan out over time.
The Predators are worse off today than they were yesterday as a result of this trade, and will likely suffer next season as well, unless Forsberg's development hits all the right notes and he puts together a Calder Trophy-type campaign in 2013-14. More realistically, we might expect to see him step into a Top 6 role in 2014-15, or even 2015-16.
Meanwhile, the team will miss out on the final two seasons of Erat's contract, at a relatively affordable $3.75 million and $2.25 million. When you recall how much the Predators are now paying Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne ($21 million combined per season for the next few years), and the decline in the salary cap range coming up next season, they will miss having a reliable veteran leading the way up front at such a reasonable rate.
Of course, it doesn't sound like they had too much choice in the matter.
What Erat's Trade Request Means
To have one of your alternate captains take a look at the team's plans and ask for a ticket out of town is unsettling to say the least. David Poile has long claimed that players love to play in Nashville and that nobody has ever asked to leave - that bubble seems to have been popped forever, in an entirely unexpected fashion.
This organization has some selling to do this summer, not only to season ticket holders who may have questions about the on-ice direction of the team, but to the free agents they'll need to plug holes which can't be addressed by internal development or trade.
On the bright side, at least Erat was up front to management with his desire to leave Nashville, and kept quiet about it. There was no public dissension, and he let David Poile do his work to make this happen. Compare that to how Ryan Suter's situation played out last summer, and Shea Weber's played out over the last couple years, and this seems like a downright amicable parting.
So do I love or hate this trade? Neither, really.
I guess you can say that the Predators are simply working their way forward from a lousy situation. So let's have a toast for Martin Erat, one of this team's all-time greats, and look ahead to the development of our Hot New Thing.