On Tuesday night, the Washington Capitals pulled off a trade that will send Martin Erat and John Mitchell to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for Rostislav Kesla, Chris Brown and a fourth round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. It is clear that the Capitals came out as the big winners in this trade, and should now be a lock to jump into the Eastern Conference playoff positions.
The biggest player moving out in the deal is Erat, who has publicly asked to be traded away from Washington multiple times this year, including just after returning from the Sochi Olympics. After just forcing a trade from the Nashville Predators at the NHL Trade Deadline last year, posting a measly one goal and 23 assists this year and generally looking to be lacking a gear in speed, precision and motivation, it is a wonder that the Capitals found a taker for the left-winger. That the Coyotes are not only taking on Erat, but also his $4.5 million cap hit through the 2014-15 season, is another bonus, as it will allow Washington to potentially make more moves before the deadline hits.
The prize player in the haul for Erat was definitely Rostislav Kesla, who has a long history of being a physically imposing shutdown defenseman. After suffering through injuries in recent years, the defenseman comes with question marks, but he can be the defensive stalwart that the Capitals so badly need on their second defensive unit alongside Mike Green, if healthy. With a contract that expires after the season, Klesla will essentially be playing for a new deal, although he should certainly help out the Washington team that ranks 21st in goals allowed per game and 22nd in penalty kill percentage along the way.
Secondary units in the trade is where the Capitals really sealed a runaway win in this trade. Mitchell is essentially a minor league journeyman at the age of 27, and with a total of 57 points in 190 games, there is no legitimate reason to believe he will ever even be a bottom six forward at the NHL level. Meanwhile, Brown actually has some upside as a potential third line winger, as he has good size, speed and has an impressive total of 82 points in 119 AHL games. There is really no comparison to the two players’ value, as Brown is the only one that will ever make an impact at the NHL level.
Capitals general manager George McPhee was able to scrape a fourth-round pick out of the Coyotes in this trade, which is nothing short of remarkable and cements his status as one of the best at his job in the world. When combined with an earlier move for Dustin Penner, Washington has gained the physical scorer and defender who they have lacked this year. They are all now but a lock to make the NHL playoffs, and certainly have the roster talent to make a run for the Stanley Cup once they get there.
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