The Phoenix Coyotes weren’t able to pull off any big moves in the final hours of trade deadline, but general manager Don Maloney ruminated on one trade he made the day before as he joined The Dan Bickley Show with Vince Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday.
The Coyotes sent defenseman Rostislav Klesla, forward Chris Brown and a fourth-round pick Tuesday to the Washington Capitals for forwards Martin Erat and John Mitchell.
Erat is just two seasons removed from tallying a personal-best 58 points for the Nashville Predators. He was traded to the Capitals after playing in 36 games for the Predators in 2012-13, but Maloney said Washington “was a bad fit” for the 32-year-old left wing.
“He fits into the way we play. He’s a quick, competitive player,” Maloney said. “Obviously, we hope we can get his offensive game back — back to the level where it was at. And we think we can do it — with our Czech group and where Tip [head coach Dave Tippett] plans to use him.”
Erat — a Trebic, Czechoslovakia, native — will join other prominent Czech players on the Coyotes like Radim Vrbata, Martin Hanzal and Zbynek Michalek.
Maloney said he hopes Erat’s evolution will be similar to Vrbata’s, who suffered from a similar “bad fit” before excelling in Phoenix. In Vrbata’s case, the right wing left the Coyotes for a lackluster 2008-09 season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, only to return to the Valley and “flourish,” according to Maloney.
“It was a bad situation in Washington (for Erat),” the general manager added. “It was bad in October. He asked to be traded. He sat out. He’s a proud guy. So this is a breath of fresh air for him.
“So obviously, we’re banking that we can turn him around and get him back to being a top two-line player in the league. And if you look at it, we were able to make the finances work, with Rusty Klesla going the other way. And I thought that was a good deal for us.”
Maloney said he’s hoping that Erat can get back to scoring 15-20 goals and putting up 40-50 points a season. The Czech forward has just one goal to go with 23 assists in 53 games so far in 2013-14.
“You’re always a little nervous when the guy you’re picking up is tied for goals scoring with your No. 1 goaltender,” the GM joked. “Of course we were (alarmed). But you know, we’ve watched him a lot — especially this year. I’ve been talking to Washington since October about him, because we’ve really liked him. It’s really interesting to watch. He’s got lots of assists, but he’s lost that confidence with the puck.”
Maloney added that the team wasn’t all too concerned about Erat’s goals drought. Maloney chalked that up to the right wing being unhappy in Washington and being uncertain if he’d be traded or not.
“We liked his game. His (competitive) level hasn’t fallen off. Obviously, he was a good enough player to play for the Czech Olympic team,” the GM added. “We think there’s still a pretty good player there. And we hope to bring it out.”