Last season was a tumultuous and underwhelming one for Martin Erat. He spent the beginning of the season out of the Washington Capitals lineup. When Washington's head coach at the time, Adam Oates, finally put the veteran winger on the ice, he initially placed him on the fourth line. Oates then stuck him with a revolving door of linemates until he was finally dealt to the Arizona Coyotes in early March.
This was the second time Erat had been traded in less than a year. Both times it was the player who requested to be dealt. However, given how he was treated by Washington, the second request certainly seems understandable.
Not long after his Coyotes debut, the grizzled winger sustained a head injury which briefly kept him out of action. In the end, the veteran forward recorded only three goals and had 26 helpers in 70 games during last season. This for a player who typically scored 16 or more goals in a season during his time as a Nashville Predator.
The major question going into the coming season is: can his get his shot production back up? Erat's career shots per game numbers as a Predator were 1.82 shots per game. Since he left Music City, he has only produced an average of 0.78 shots per game. His goal numbers are not likely to rebound significantly unless his shot production ramps back up.
The good news is Erat continued to put up good possession numbers (+3.3% CorsiRel) even while facing tough competition (49% offensive zone starts) last season. All this while playing with 21 different forwards for at least 10 minutes of 5v5 total ice time last season. As a comparison, Marian Gaborik, who was traded at the same time as Erat, played with only 14 different forwards for at least 10 minutes of 5v5 ice time. Hard to get comfortable with your linemates when they seemingly change every shift.
There were signs late in the season that Erat seemed to be coming out of his extended funk. The Czech winger collected one goal and three assists in the last five games of the season. With 17 games in the spring and a full training camp under his belt, one would assume the veteran forward will be comfortable with Coach Dave Tippett's system by the time the Winnipeg Jets come to town for the regular season opener. He will also be playing for a staff who appears to have more confidence in him than the staff in Washington did.
Even if Erat's skills are on the decline and his shot production stays at the level it was the last season and a half, one would assume he will score more than three goals in the coming campaign. If he is able to return regain his old form this coming season, especially when it comes to producing shots, GM Don Maloney may have gotten another value deal on the trade market.