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Washington Capitals: Was the Forsberg/Erat Trade Good or Bad?

To Make the Stanley Cup Final, the Washington Caps Traded Away a Top Prospect. Was it the Right Decision?

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Washington Capitals: Was the Forsberg/Erat Trade Good or Bad?
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A puck that hopped the glass during Game 1 of the Capitals versus Rangers playoff series.

COMMENTARY | In April 2013, as the trade deadline was coming to a close, the Washington Capitals made a move that took most of the team's fans by surprise. General manager George McPhee (GMGM) had decided to trade one of Caps' top prospects, Filip Forsberg, for seasoned veteran Martin Erat of the Nashville Predators.

The move was surprising for a number of reasons. First, some fans at the time thought that GMGM was possibly going to be a seller rather than a buyer. The Capitals had spent a good chunk of the lockout-shortened season as bottom dwellers, so some thought that the team would have a fire sale a la the Buffalo Sabres (see this YouTube video to get an idea of how the Sabres dealt with the trade deadline.)

Other fans speculated that the team would do nothing, as it had done the year before. Most were definitely not expecting GMGM to trade off Forsberg, a player that some had thought might be the future of the franchise and its 2012 first-round draft pick.

Looking back to the trade as well as forward to next season, many are still wondering if GMGM's move was a good one. Certainly, Erat's grit and veteran attitude seemed to help the Caps out in the waning days of the season and during the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs -- that is when he was able to play. Unfortunately, the 32-year-old left wing didn't hit the ice as often as hoped. He suffered a knee injury in his second game in a Caps sweater and missed the next three games.

Although he was able to return for the playoffs, he was injured again in Game 4 when he got caught up in a collision with Washington captain Alex Ovechkin and Rangers' player Derek Stepan. Erat was forced to leave the game with a dislocated elbow that kept him from hitting the ice again for the rest of the Caps' short playoff run.

With the 2013 season in the rear-view mirror, a number of fans are now wondering if GMGM should have held on to the future with Forsberg or if the addition of Erat will prove to be a good fit in the long run for the Caps, who are definitely lacking in the grit department.

Those who hated the trade argue that Forsberg is a talented player who was the captain of Sweden's World Junior Championship team and who might be another Nicklas Backstrom (of course, after Backstrom's less-than-impressive play in this year's playoffs, maybe that's not a good thing.) In fact, the Capitals once appeared as if they were planning on hanging their future on Forsberg as well as Russian player Evgeny Kuznetsov, the team's 26th pick in the 2010 draft.

The truth is no one knows for certain how Forsberg will do in the NHL. In a March 2013 interview with the Washington Post, GMGM had noted that because Forsberg was playing in Sweden's second-tier league, the youngster would probably start his career in the United States in the American Hockey League rather than the NHL. Some hockey experts also wondered out loud whether the team and its scouts had seen something - or didn't see what they had hoped - in the prospect that suddenly made him eligible for the trading block.

The speedy Erat, on the other hand, is a proven top-six forward who in the few games he played with the Capitals showed a willingness to battle in the corners and who seemed to fit in well on the second line with Mike Ribeiro and Troy Brouwer.

A good trade or a waste of a first-round pick? Unfortunately, the Caps' early exit from the playoff picture didn't give fans any answers to that question.

Jane Ellis has been a freelance reporter for a number of years as well as a former editorial production manager at 4-Wheel & Off-Road Magazine. She is a season ticketholder who has followed the Washington Capitals for approximately 20 years.

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