The Washington Capitals have wrapped up a busy day by obliging Martin Erat’s months-old trade request. According to multiple reports (including from the Caps themselves), Caps’ General Manager George McPhee sent Erat and AHL forward John Mitchell to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for left-handed defensive defenseman Rostislav “Rusty” Klesla, AHL forward Chris Brown (not the one you’ve heard of), and a 4th round pick in the 2015 draft.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s call this trade Erat for Klesla. It looks like a great deal for the Caps. Erat’s production did not justify his salary cap hit of $4.5 million, and he has another year on his contract after this one. I really did not expect to see him go without the Caps keeping some of his salary; getting value in return while shipping his contract off intact was a major coup. Klesla’s contract, with a cap hit of almost $3 million, will expire this summer.
A quick look at the newest Capital shows us that he may fit the bill of what the Caps have been missing. Or not. Klesla was the very first ever draft pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets back in 2000. He was the kind of solid player who could eat over 20 minutes a night as recently as ’09-’10, but has dipped to a career-low average of 16 and change this season, according to hockey-reference.com. It remains unclear whether the decline is a result of his falling into the Coyotes’ dog house (pun intended… I’m sorry), or if his play has declined. Before today, most of us agreed that the biggest gaping hole in the Caps’ roster was on the left side of the defense behind Karl Alzner; we’ll see if Klesla is the plug we needed.
With Erat’s departure, we have enough cap space to pay Klesla, Dustin Penner, and Jack Hillen (who was activated from Long Term Injured Reserve this evening), and, according to capgeek, Evgeny Kuznetsov. With this trade and the one earlier today for Penner, this team has a new look.