General manager David Poile said he had a number of meetings with Erat, who ranks second all-time in most of the franchise's offensive categories, to make sure the request was not being made on an emotional basis. When Poile was satisfied it was not, he took 24 hours to consummate a deal with the Washington Capitals, satisfying Erat's demands.
Wednesday, Erat waived a no-movement clause allowing Nashville to trade him along with minor-league center Michael Latta for top prospect Filip Forsberg.
"I can't sugarcoat it," Poile said of Erat's request. "It's really disappointing."
In 723 games with the Predators, Erat, a seventh-round pick in the 1999 NHL Draft, totaled 163 goals, 318 assists and 481 points. But Erat was mired in a miserable season, arguably the worst of his career.
His 21 straight games without a goal was the longest such streak in his 11 NHL seasons. Two players on the team had a worse rating than Erat's minus-7: slumping second-year offensive-minded forward Craig Smith and aging defenseman Scott Hannan, whom Nashville also traded Wednesday. Hannan went to the San Jose Sharks for a late-round conditional draft pick.
Poile said he did not think the trade signified that the Predators were giving up on making the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Predators entered Wednesday in ninth in the Western Conference with 38 points, tied with their Central Division rival the St. Louis Blues, who hold three games in hand.
Poile pointed out Nashville is 4-1-2 in its past seven games.
"Our players are playing good enough to make it," he said. "This was clearly not giving up."
Nonetheless, Poile had to parry numerous questions from the Nashville media who tried to link the departure of All-Star defenseman Ryan Suter via free agency to the Minnesota Wild along with captain's Shea Weber's move to sign an offer sheet last summer with the Philadelphia Flyers. Poile said it was all part of the business side of hockey.
He said in Forsberg, the Predators made a good hockey trade for the kind of dynamic forward which the team has lacked. At the time he was the 11th player taken in the 2012 NHL Draft, Forsberg was listed at 6-foot-1, 188 pounds. Poile said the Predators already had spoken to his agent and would begin to formulate a development plan for him.
Forsberg's season in Sweden is nearly complete, and Poile said the Predators plan to bring him to Nashville, even if it's just for a few practices. He was unsure whether the 18-year-old forward, whom Poile said could play all three positions, would play any NHL games this season. Washington had signed Forsberg so Nashville does not have to worry about contract negotiations.
Poile said Nashville's scouts rated Forsberg as a top-five pick at the 2012 NHL Draft, when he was the third forward selected. Poile described Forsberg as having a lot of power and as being a good distributor of the puck.
"He plays like a man and has got a man's body," Poile said, noting that Forsberg is more physically mature than most 18- or 19-year-olds.
In 33 games this season with Leksands, a second-division team, Forsberg averaged a point per game (15 goals and 18 assists). At the World Junior Championship, he had three goals and two assists in six games for the Swedish national team.
Latta is a 6-foot, 209-pound 21-year-old who was a third-round pick in 2009. Playing for Milwaukee of the American Hockey League this season, he has 14 goals and 13 assists in 51 games and is plus-8.
Hannan, signed for depth this season when the Predators chose not to bring back defenseman Francis Bouillon, became expendable because of the play this season of two young defensemen, Victor Bartley and Jon Blum. The Predators will receive a seventh-round pick, which becomes a sixth-rounder if Hannan plays in the playoffs with San Jose. Hannan began his career with the Sharks and played many seasons there.