In Short, No.
Fresh off the heels of a heartbreaking 3-2 loss at the hands of their divisional rivals, the Los Angeles Kings, the Vancouver Canucks have wasted no time in getting pro-active with righting the ship –or they are apparently trying to, anyways.
As per that link, Pierre LeBrun is reporting that the Canucks have expressed “mild” interest in the disgruntled Washington Capitals winger, Martin Erat.
At first glance, the idea of trading for a 32-year old who’s scored but one goal in his 32-game stay with the Capitals seems counter-intuitive; especially for a team like the Canucks who are struggling so mightily with scoring goals.
Then there’s the matter of his contract, which carries into next season with a cap hit of $4.5M – from the perspective of ownership, however, the silver lining can be found in the fact that it is a back-diving contract and pays out $3.75M and $2.25M in this season and next in actual money.
Looking beyond face value though, there might be some reasons and or ways to justify a trade for Erat. All of which, are taken into account below.
What of Erat’s Role in Washington?
To say Erat has been saddled with some of the less offensively gifted players in Washington is somewhat of an understatement. In what I imagine was an effort to create a defensively sound checking line, Erat has been playing
primarily with Troy Brouwer (5G 2A 24GP) and Brooks Laich (3G 2A 24GP) on the Capitals third line.
That zero in the goals column for Erat is a little concerning, but a combination of bad linemates and worse luck could be to blame for that.
That being said, he’s been playing against average competition and is deployed in the offensive zone for more than 50% of his shifts.
He should be producing at a much higher level than he is, to say the least.
On the bright side, Erat’s underlying numbers suggest that he’s not hurting his team defensively at least.
He’s a positive possession player historically, and has continued that trend this season with a Corsi (a statistical metric that uses shot attempts as a proxy for possession) percentage just under 51% at evens.
His Corsi Rel. (which is his Corsi relative to the team without him on the ice) is 2.4%, which suggests he’s not a possession liability to his club.
The Warning Signs…
The positives to Erat’s game in the last two seasons were few and far between, whether I used advanced or more traditional statistics.
The same can not be said of the red flags, that spring out at every corner as I delved deeper into Erat’s numbers.
Most concerning of all with Erat is that he’s not taking shots like he used to. Once upon a time Erat was registering nearly eight shots per 60 minutes of ice time, but that number has steadily declined to less than half of that.
You can’t score if you don’t shoot.
What’s peculiar about this data is that right as his shots/60mins drops, from the 2010-11 season to the 2011-12 one, it leads to the best statistical season of his career (19G 39A 58P in 71GP). This however can be easily explained looking at his abnormally high shooting percentage in that season which eclipsed 17%. His career average is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 12%, so yeah, he got a little lucky that season.
Intriguing, but Risky
For the Canucks to pull off this trade they are going to have to send some salary back Washington’s way; so as to remain under the salary cap.
That means that barring a David Booth for Martin Erat swap, the Canucks will have to give up a roster player of some importance to this club, that also carries a cap hit of at least $1.5M.
Or perhaps Mike Gillis could convince George McPhee (you know, the guy who acquired Erat for friggin Filip Forsberg) to keep some salary. Whatever the case, it wouldn’t be easy.
Now that being said, I just don’t see the point in making this trade. At this stage in his career Erat can, at best, be an effective third-liner; problem here is that he carries the cap hit of a second liner.
If he’s having difficulties scoring in the free-wheeling Eastern Conference, what happens when he’s facing the structurally sound teams of the West again?
If he’s having a hard time finding a role with the Capitals, how is he going to work with a coach that demands his first-liners block shots and kill penalties?
If the Capitals want David Booth and nothing more in return for Erat, I’m all for this reclamation project. Otherwise, not so much.