The Nashville Predators’ $6 million forward Martin Erat will miss tonight’s game against the St. Louis Blues with an “upper body injury,” according to Josh Cooper. Cooper and many others worry that the vaguely described problem is a recurrence of back issues that kept Erat out of 18 games last season.
Erat is in a tough spot going into 2011-12. The Predators are the NHL’s answer to the “Moneyball” Oakland A’s, which means that the team scrutinizes every dollar they spend. He tied Sergei Kostitsyn for the team lead with 50 points last season even with those back issues, but it’s natural for fans of the penny-pinching team to wonder if Erat is worth the money. (His cap hit is a more reasonable $4.5 million per year, but the Predators are a team that worries more about salary than cap space.)
With that substantial salary and the upcoming free agency of Pekka Rinne, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter in mind, Predators fans will shine a harsh spotlight on Erat. His numbers weren’t great in the Predators’ 3-2 win Friday, as he was on the ice for both Columbus Blue Jackets goals.
To temper the criticism a bit, someone needs to score for Nashville and Erat is one of their most capable forwards. However they feel about his paychecks, the Predators will want him back as soon as possible.