Apr 23, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Martin Erat (10) celebrates with teammates in the closing seconds against the Winnipeg Jets in the third period at Verizon Center. The Capitals won 5-3 and clinched the Southeast Division championship. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Trade Speculation: Winnipeg Jets Exploring Options With Martin Erat

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It is no longer a secret that Martin Erat wants out of Washington. After just 31 games with the Capitals, Erat confirmed his wishes to be traded on Monday. Erat has scored a lone goal in that time, and has only attained 6 assists this year. Erat has been serving on the Capitals’ fourth line for the majority of 2013-14, and has expressed frustration with his ice time.

“Since Day One, I didn’t get the chance here, it’s time for me to move on.”

The Winnipeg Jets need to make something happen to have a fighting chance in the stacked Central Division: Is picking up Erat a possibility?

As the days go on, the Winnipeg Jets look more and more like a team that needs some outside help to take that next step. After teetering on the edge of the playoffs in each of their first two seasons, and now moving to the tough-as-nails Western Conference, each issue the Jets run into is amplified 1o times more than before.

To their credit, the Jets do have the foundation for a winning formula in place: mobile defenseman, an underrated goaltending tandem, and a good mix of speed and strength on offense. However, when all the ingredients are put together, the finished product is not as good, and the Jets’ team game shows holes that need to be patched immediately. Shuffling the lines hasn’t done it justice, as the Jets’ offense has only put up 4 or more goals in 3 of their last 18 games. The Jets’ power-play is ranked in 28th NHL-wide with an atrocious 11.5% scoring percentage, as the Jets currently sit 6 points out of a Wild Card playoff spot.

Erat’s offensive skill-set could be a huge addition to the Jets’ lineup. Erat would land among the top six forwards, and Head Coach Claude Noel would have some tinkering to do, finding a winger suitable to play across from Erat on the right side. However, when put with the right pieces, Erat has shown that he becomes very effective, and the Czech Republic native was just one goal shy of the 20 mark and gathered 58 points in 2011-12, with the most complete lineup he has played with in his career alongside him that year.

Erat’s role on offense would be simple: get the shooters the puck. The Jets have lacked solid puck distribution all season, and Erat could be just what they’re looking for, as his numbers are similar to that of Blake Wheeler‘s in the 2011-12 season. The Jets have struggled passing the puck after getting set up in the offensive zone, and with Erat quarterbacking the play, players like Dustin Byfuglien will have the time and space to shoot the puck, what they do best. On the power-play, Erat would wear the same hat, and with some improved mechanics on the man-advantage, the special teams unit could be producing very soon.

Erat’s downside has notoriously been his defensive game. Erat’s speed has never been an issue on the back-check, as long as the legs are moving all of the time. When pinned in their own end, Erat’s smaller 6’0″ stature gives opponents a little more room to maneuver, creating trouble on the blue-line as well as in the slot. The Jets’ big bodies counter-act this nicely, and as long as a strong work ethic is put in when in their own end, Erat and the Jets could survive, and even prosper.

Erat’s contract is another bump in the road when exploring the possibility of a trade to Winnipeg, as his $4,500,000 cap hit is significantly more than what the Jets can afford. The Jets would need to part ways with some salaries if they were to acquire Erat, such as Olli Joikenen, who’s physical offensive game would fit in nicely in Washington, and his $4,500,000 cap hit would cancel out that of the player going the other way. As with any trade, prospects and draft picks could be thrown into the mix, but the Erat/Joikenen starting point seems fair, as the Capitals want to get rid of his long-term deal, and pick up a player that can help them in the short-term before they evaluate in the off-season.

With 6 days passed since news of Erat’s wishes to leave Washington broke, it is unlikely that he will become a Jet with the lack of buzz surrounding the 32-year old in Winnipeg. However, Jets’ GM Kevin Chevaldayoff has not pulled the trigger on any trades yet this season, and landing a player like Erat could be the next thing on his to-do list.

 

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Tags: Martin Erat Winnipeg Jets

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