Photo: Washington Capitals
In March 2013, ex-Caps General Manager George McPhee traded the Washington Capitals’ top prospect, Filip Forsberg, to the Nashville Predators for veteran winger Martin Erat and prospect Michael Latta. Since that deal (considered by many to be the worst in Capitals history), Forsberg has scored 104 points in 154 games for the Predators while Erat played just 62 games for Washington with just 27 points (two goals, 25 assists) before requesting a trade out of Washington. Latta is all the Capitals have from that dreadful deal.
Latta was drafted by the Predators in the third-round (72nd overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, and spent three and a half seasons with the Predators’ AHL affiliate Milwaukee Admirals before he was traded. Latta played his junior career with the Ottawa 67’s and Guelph Storm, with whom he had seasons of 36 and 73 points in 42 and 58 games, respectively. The offensive potential seemed to be clearly there for Latta, it was just a matter of could he find it at the NHL level.
In his two and half years in Washington, Latta has played 107 games and has registered just 16 points (four goals, 12 assists). While that does not come close to Forsberg’s numbers, Latta provides a lot more than offense to the Capitals. He is a grinder, not afraid to go to the dirty areas of the ice to get the puck and dishes out hits on a regular basis. He is also not afraid to drop the gloves in defense of teammates, something that not a lot of 6’0″-tall players would do. He has shown flashes of offensive skill, particularly this season; he currently has six points (three goals, three assists) and his goals are highlight reel worthy.
But the thing Latta is most well-known for is his relationship with fellow youngster Tom Wilson; the two live together and are very close. Their relationship became more well-known during the Epix Road to the Winter Classic specials that aired prior to the 2015 NHL Winter Classic.
Both also play a similar game, though Wilson is more offensive than Latta. Both can drop the gloves with the best of them, both are physical, and both are hard-working players. With both eligible to become restricted free agents at the end of the year, it will be interesting to see how the contract situations play out.
While Forsberg and Erat will garner most of the attention when the infamous trade is discussed, one should not forget Latta. Despite his offensive shortcomings, he provides the Capitals with so much more. While he may never be the player Forsberg has turned into, he’s a special player in his own way.
Coach Trotz stated this week that Jay Beagle could possibly return to practicing with the team this Monday. Beagle’s eventual return to the active roster will require the Capitals to make a move in order to make space for Beagle. Michael Latta and Stanislav Galiev, a consistent healthy scratch, would appear to be the players that will feel the brunt of Jay Beagle’s return.
Galiev can no longer be sent directly to Hershey without clearing waivers. Considering Galiev’s age and potential upside, it would be unlikely that he would clear waivers. This would seemingly place Galiev at the top of the list for a potential trade.
Latta has moved to wing since the arrival of Mike Richards. Considering this may have been an affective move, coupled with Latta’s face-off numbers may be Latta’s saving grace. However, a trade or relocation of Galiev will likely simply move Latta into the consistent “healthy scratch” position, previously held by Galiev.
With the trade deadline approaching, the Caps may look to find a solution via trade, not necessarily to bolster today’s team, but possibly for draft picks and/or other prospect potential as a method to settle their current 23-man roster. Latta and Galiev have differing styles of play and skill sets, so If teams are more interested in Latta’s skills, this could place Latta at the top the trade list. Only time will tell, but with the trade deadline two-weeks away, the answer seems to be close.