It was just over a month ago when multiple sources were reporting that Eric Belanger was close to re-signing with the Washington Capitals for a cool $1.85 million. It appeared to be a lock that made a lot of sense for both sides. Belanger was one of the few Caps’ players that actually showed up for the playoffs before the President’s Trophy winners were ousted in the first round by the Montreal Canadiens. He famously took to the ice just minutes after losing eight teeth on the account of a high stick to the kisser. An excellent two-way centreman that flew under the radar for parts of nine seasons in Minnesota, Carolina, Atlanta, and Los Angeles; Belanger appeared primed to slot in as the Capitals’ checking line pivot.
George McPhee and his cronies had other plans, so it seems, as Belanger opted to sign a 1-year deal with the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday worth a reported $750,000. Several reports are pointing to an impending trade that never took place as the reason the Capitals chose not to move forward with the offer to Belanger. A handy Google translation from an RDS.ca report via a JapersRink tweet sheds some light on the situation, at least from camp Belanger’s perspective. Behold an excerpt from a letter written by Belanger’s agent Joe Tacopina to George McPhee (bear with the shoddy translation):
“On July 16 at 9: 45, I received a text message from Don Fishman (Assistant CEO) telling me that the Capitals were willing to offer a one-year contract to Eric. I reminded Don and he told me about a one-year contract, valued at $ 1,850,000.
He said that the cartel could not immediately become official because the team was trying to trade a player, and if the deal with Eric was known, the Capitals would have less bargaining power to complete a transaction.
You asked Eric to accept the verbal agreement to make sure that Eric will not change his mind.
We accepted your offer and Don told me that a transaction would take place in 2-5 days and thereafter he would send me a copy of the contract. Don also knew that we had talks with other teams and respect for your organization, we decided not to continue negotiations with other interested training services to my client (…) Don then sent me a text message confirming our agreement.
July 23, Don contacted me to tell me he is still no deal, but that the case was progressing “
It’s safe to say that player X was never traded, thus forcing Belanger to look for work elsewhere. He’ll make almost a million less with the Coyotes, but he’ll likely be given more ice time both even strength and on the penalty kill. Given Washington’s general lack of defensive presence last spring, spurning Belanger may prove costly.
Phoenix Coyotes general manager Don Maloney was elated to welcome Belanger to the desert:
“We are excited to have Eric join us here in Phoenix,” said Maloney. “He is a smart, quick, talented center who plays well on both sides of the puck. We had identified Eric early in the free agency period as someone who would be a great fit with us and feel fortunate we are able to bring him to the Coyotes organization.”
It’s a great move for Phoenix, as they add some much needed depth down the middle with a premier face off man. Belanger is double tough, to boot: