The Washington Capitals have a lot going for them. They’re coming off a Presidents’ Trophy-winning campaign and an appearance in the Eastern Conference Final. Plus, they boast the reigning Vezina, Rocket Richard and Jack Adams winners in Braden Holtby, Alex Ovechkin and Barry Trotz, respectively.
It’s a solid on-ice product and by all accounts the Caps should be contenders in the East again next season.
However, one thing that will always hover over the franchise is the 2013 trade in which the team gave up on a burgeoning Swedish prospect and got virtually nothing in return. The Capitals traded Filip Forsberg (the 11th-overall pick from 2012) to the Nashville Predators for Martin Erat and Michael Latta.
Now, it might seem like we’re beating a dead horse by bringing up this trade, one of the most lopsided in NHL history, but we’re not. In fact, we’re laying it to rest.
Both Forsberg and Latta made news this week.
The Predators inked Forsberg to a six-year extension worth $36 million Monday.
“Filip is among the most skilled, dynamic talents we’ve ever had in the organization and is an integral part of our success for the next six years and beyond,” Predators general manager David Poile said. “While we have already seen his creativity, hockey sense and puck skills, he has yet to reach the peak of his abilities. We have full confidence that he will continue to blossom into one of the top players in the world.”
The Capitals, meanwhile, decided to cut ties with Latta by not giving the pending restricted free agent a qualifying offer. What’s significant about the Latta move is it now means the Capitals have nothing – literally not one asset – remaining or stemming from the trade.
Here is a timeline of tragic (if you’re a Caps fan) transactions…
On April 3, 2013 – Capitals traded Forsberg to the Predators for Erat and Latta.
Erat ended up scoring just two goals in 62 total regular season games in a season and a half with Washington. He also went pointless in four playoff games.
Klesla never suited up for a game with the Capitals and finished his career playing two seasons in his native Czech Republic.
Brown, the 36th-overall pick in 2009, developed into nothing more than an AHL forward. He registered three points in 12 games spread across three seasons with the Capitals.
Feb. 28, 2015 – The fourth-round pick acquired in the Brown/Klesla deal was packaged with Jack Hillen to acquire defenceman Tim Gleason. The longtime Carolina Hurricane played 17 regular season and 14 playoff games for the Caps that season. He hasn’t played in the NHL since.
June 27, 2016 – Capitals chose not to extend a qualifying offer to Latta. The 25-year-old centre played 113 games in three seasons with the Caps, registering 17 points and 130 penalty minutes.
So there you have it. The Capitals officially have nothing to show for that dumpster fire of a deal and it’s sure to hurt for years to come.
Forsberg isn’t just a good player. He’s the best player to emerge from the 2012 NHL Draft. If you were to do a mock re-draft of that class, Forsberg would be the consensus No. 1 pick ahead of actual top pick Nail Yakupov plus standouts Alex Galchenyuk, Morgan Rielly, Hampus Lindholm, Jacob Trouba, Shayne Gostisbehere, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Frederik Andersen.
Forsberg has 60 goals and 73 assists for 133 points through 182 career regular season games. Only Galchenyuk has more goals (72) and assists (88) than Forsberg from that draft class, however the Montreal Canadiens forward has played 93 more games than Forsberg.
The original deal and the second Erat trade were then-GM George McPhee’s doing. His contract was not renewed following the 2013-14 campaign – in part due to the fallout from trading Forsberg.
Brian MacLellan is now in charge and he’s proven he doesn’t shy away from bold moves either. He revamped the blue line by adding Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, added more firepower to an already-potent offence by acquiring T.J. Oshie last summer, and at last week’s draft spent two second-round picks to get Lars Eller from Montreal.
If MacLellan can steer the Capitals to a Stanley Cup in the next few years, it will soften the blow of losing a blue-chip prospect for what turned out to be nothing. Until that happens, though, hearing the name Filip Forsberg will be like lemon juice in a collective paper cut for Caps fans.