Photo: Greg Fiume
Two thousand thirteen has been a year of reinvigoration for the Capitals. After a dreary start to the lockout-shortened season, the team began a Cinderella-story rally in March that carried the team into the playoffs and their captain into another MVP trophy. But the last few months have revealed a Capitals team that is not uniformly happy with their spots on the team. While new coach Adam Oates has made his stars happy, a number of lower-tiered players have grown discontent. Three players have requested trades in the last six weeks.
November 25th, Martin Erat
Martin Erat's agent confirms that they have requested a trade.
— RMNB (@russianmachine) November 25, 2013
We found a Czech-language interview with Martin Erat a few days before Thanksgiving. We published our translation before morning practice wrapped up. Less than an hour later we had word directly from Martin Erat and his agent that he wanted out of Washington. “I want to get out of here as soon as possible” is how Marty put it, translated from the Czech.
Understandable. Erat went from playing 18-19 minutes a night in Nashville to under 14 minutes in DC, where he was basically babysitting the fourth line. By the end of November he was a steady scratch. But then Brooks Laich re-aggravated his groin and Erat returned to active service. Erat has been making the Caps’ third line (Chimera-Erat-Ward) a dynamic force ever since, but word is he still would like to be moved.
It’s unlikely an Erat trade would bring a first-round draft pick or its equivalent in return. It seems the post script on the Forsberg-Erat trade is coming, and it may not be a happy one for Washington’s front office.
November 27th, Dmitry Orlov
— CSN Washington (@CSNwashington) November 27, 2013
Dmitry Orlov had bounced up and down from Hershey to DC for two months without seeing a single game of NHL action. We were in the dark as to what was going on until The Washington Post’s Katie Carrera revealed that the Caps were attempting to satisfy an escape clause in Orlov’s contract that would allow him to leave for the KHL if he didn’t spend a month on the NHL payroll.
Speaking with RMNB, Orlov expressed a measure of relief regarding his numerous re-assignments. ”I know I am going to get to play hockey,” Orlov said, “which is what I love to do.” The Caps seemed to be going through the motions– bring Orlov down for a few days and sending him back up without ever intending to play him– until Orlov’s agent told CSN’s Charles Gormley that he had requested a trade.
Orlov played three days later, the same game in which Erat returned, and hasn’t left the lineup since. He scored his first goal this season on December 15th and has steady possession numbers considering the team’s general trouble in that measure.
Orlov has since modified his agent’s trade “demand.” He’s apparently happy to stay under the following, reasonable condition: “If I play here, yeah.” Adding, “All the guys are good.”
December 29th, Michal Neuvirth
Michal Neuvirth's agent Patrik Stefan says he's hoping for a change of scenery out of Washington for his client. A fresh start…
— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) December 30, 2013
Michal Neuvirth has been a Washington Capital his whole career, longer than any other goalie, since relieving Jose Theodore and Semyon Varlamov in early 2009. Neuvirth has been a steady but unspectacular presence on the ice in his 128 games, sporting a slightly below average .910 save percentage, though that’s not a mature sample.
He backstopped the Capitals through their final unsuccessful playoff campaign under Bruce Boudreau in 2010-11 with a .912.
But Neuvirth has also suffered repeated injuries. Neuvirth injured his leg in April of 2012 after a strong season. He lost his most recent chance to start after stepping on puck in late November of this year. Neuvy has not played since November 22nd, and with Philipp Grubauer now as the current golden boy in the goal, there don’t seem to be any upcoming opportunities for Michal to play.
All of this must come as something of a surprise for the Czech goalie, who told the press back in 2012 that Braden Holtby was his “weakest competition yet.” Pierre LeBrun spoke with Neuvirth’s agent on Sunday night and reported that he would like a “fresh start” somewhere else.