Report: Eric Belanger's mystery team is the Washington Capitals; is Tomas Fleischmann on his way out?

ericbelangershove.jpg(Note: as always, it is important to note that the REPORT in the headline of this story. The Capitals have not confirmed anything yet, but it’s reasonable to say that Eric Belanger will be a member of their team next season.)

Last night, we discussed the somewhat odd story circulating that Eric Belanger had signed with a team but couldn’t announce which one it was because that team was looking to make space for him. It seems all but certain that his “new” team will be his “old” team as James Mirtle and other media members report that he’ll re-sign with the Washington Capitals.

Mirtle reports that it will be a one-year deal that will give the versatile forward a modest raise to $1.85 million (his previous salary was $1.75 million).

The most interesting aspect might not be Belanger signing with the Capitals, but rather who Washington will trade to make room for the forward … or perhaps more precisely, which defenseman they may add to bolster their nearly-set roster. Here is more on that subject from Mirtle.

Washington apparently does not want to announce they’ve signed Belanger in order to help first complete another deal, potentially to move out a forward and bring in a defenceman. I’m told that one player the Caps are looking to trade is 26-year-old Tomas Fleishmann, who had 23 goals and 51 points in a bit of a breakout season last year and signed a one-year, $2.6-million deal this summer.

The one trade the hockey world is expecting in the next few days, meanwhile, is that of Leafs defenceman Tomas Kaberle, whose no-trade clause comes back into effect on Monday. While Washington was rumoured interested in him in the past, Leafs GM Brian Burke said they are not one of the 10 teams that have enquired about Kaberle’s availability.

“We are not in discussions with the Capitals about Tomas Kaberle,” Burke said. “Not once.”

You really have to love Brian Burke. He must be the most entertaining GM in hockey, at least from a “public persona” perspective.

It may take some time to get the official word, especially if the team is still in the negotiation process, but we’ll let you know when (or if) something happens.

Scroll Down For:

    Oilers cap situation is scary, and not just because of Draisaitl, McDavid

    Getty
    3 Comments

    The Edmonton Oilers pulled the trigger – and likely made teams with big RFA headaches like the Boston Bruins grimace – in signing Leon Draisaitl to a massive eight-year, $68 million contract on Wednesday.

    You have to do a little stretching to call it a good deal, although credit Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshysnki with some reasonably stated optimism.

    Either way, the per-year cap bill for Connor McDavid and Draisaitl is $21 million once McDavid’s extension kicks in starting in 2018-19; that’s the same combined cost that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane receive … and those two got those paydays after they won three Stanley Cups for the Chicago Blackhawks.

    Now, if the Oilers struggle in the near future, plenty of people will heap blame on McDavid and/or Draisaitl. Really, though, the true scapegoats should be a management team with more strikeouts than homers.

    (As usual, Cap Friendly was a key resource in studying Edmonton’s salary structure.)

    Bloated supporting cast

    There are some frightening contracts on the books in Edmonton, especially if a few situations work out unfavorably.

    At 29, there’s severe risk of regression with Milan Lucic, even if he enjoys a more stable second season with Edmonton. He carries a $6M cap hit through 2022-23, so he’ll be on the books for all but two years of Draisaitl’s new deal.

    Kris Russell costs $4.167M during a four-year stretch, and even now, he has plenty of critics. Those complaints may only get louder if, at 30, he also starts to slip from his already debatable spot.

    Andrej Sekera‘s been a useful blueliner, yet there’s some concern that time won’t treat him kindly. He’s dealing with injuries heading into 2017-18, and at 31, there’s always the risk that his best days are behind him. Not great for a guy carrying a $5.5M cap hit through 2020-21.

    One can’t help but wonder if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins might be an odd man out once the shackles of the salary cap really tighten. Just consider how much Edmonton is spending on a limited number of players, and you wonder if the 24-year-old will be deemed too pricey at his $6M clip.

    Yeah, not ideal.

    It’s not all bad

    Now, let’s be fair.

    RNH could easily grow into being well worth that $6M. Draisaitl may also justify his hefty price tag. McDavid honestly cut the Oilers a relative deal by taking $12.5M instead of the maximum.

    The Oilers also have two quality, 24-year-old defensemen locked up to team-friendly deals: Oscar Klefbom ($4.167M through 2022-23) and Adam Larsson ($4.167M through 2020-21). They need every bargain they can get, and those two figure to fit the bill.

    Crucial future negotiations

    GM Peter Chiarelli’s had a questionable history of getting good deals. He’ll need to get together soon, or the Oilers will really struggle to surround their core with helpful support.

    Cam Talbot is a brilliant bargain at the strangely familiar cap hit of $4.167M, but that value only lasts through 2018-19. After that, he’s eligible to become a UFA, and could be massively expensive if he produces two more strong seasons.

    The bright side is that the Oilers aren’t locked into an expensive goalie, so they can look for deals. That isn’t as sunny a situation if you don’t trust management to have much success in the bargain bin.

    Talbot isn’t the only upcoming expiring contract. The Oilers have serious questions to answer with Darnell Nurse and Ryan Strome. Also, will they need to let Lucic-like winger Patrick Maroon go? Even with mild relief in Mark Fayne‘s money coming off the books, the Oilers might regret this buffet when the bills start piling up next summer.

    ***

    Look, the truth is that management is likely to be propped up by the top-end in Edmonton, particularly in the case of McDavid’s otherworldly skills. As much as that Draisaitl deal looks like an overpay – possibly a massive one – there’s a chance that he lives up to that $8.5M, too.

    It’s not just about those stars, though.

    The Pittsburgh Penguins gained new life by complimenting Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin with the likes of Phil Kessel. The Blackhawks have struggled once they couldn’t afford as much help for Kane and Toews.

    You have to mix your premium items with bargains, and one wonders if the Oilers will be able to spot sufficient value beyond the no-brainer top guys. Their recent history in that area certainly leaves a lot to be desired.

    Cullen signs with Wild, opting against retirement (and Penguins)

    Getty
    7 Comments

    Matt Cullen is going home, but that doesn’t mean that he’s retiring from hockey.

    Instead, the Minnesota native decided to sign a one-year, $1 million deal with the Minnesota Wild. It’s unclear why, precisely, Cullen didn’t ink a deal to try to “threepeat” with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    The Wild note that his deal also includes $700K in potential performance bonuses.

    This will be the 40-year-old’s second run with the Wild. His first run came from 2010-11 through 2012-13, where he appeared in 193 regular-season games and five postseason contests for Minnesota.

    Cullen managed back-to-back 30+ point seasons with the Penguins while providing useful all-around play as a veteran center. If he can maintain a reasonably high level of play, this gives the Wild quite the solid group down the middle, even with Martin Hanzal gone.

    Oilers ink Draisaitl to monster eight-year, $68 million deal

    Getty
    19 Comments

    The Edmonton Oilers have locked up their cornerstone players for the foreseeable future.

    They didn’t come cheap.

    Just weeks after signing Connor McDavid to a eight-year, $100 million deal, the Oilers signed fellow forward Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year, $68 million deal. The contract carries a $8.5M average annual cap hit and, combined with McDavid’s $12.5M, will now cost the Oilers $21M annually through 2025.

    McDavid certainly warranted his payday. The same can be said of Draisaitl.

    The 21-year-old just wrapped his three-year, entry-level deal, and couldn’t have done so in finer fashion. Draisaitl enjoyed a terrific season, platooning between the second-line center position and the wing alongside McDavid, and finished with 29 goals and 77 points.

    Then, the playoffs happened.

    Draisaitl had a terrific postseason, racking up six goals and 16 points in 13 games. At the time of elimination he was sitting second among all scorers — trailing only Evgeni Malkin — and was downright brilliant in Edmonton’s seven-game loss to Anaheim, finishing with 13 points.

    More to follow…

     

    Report: Vegas among teams in on Pens draftee Byron

    Getty
    Leave a comment

    Will Butcher isn’t the only college free agent garnering interest in free agency.

    University of Maine senior Blaine Byron, Pittsburgh’s sixth-round pick in ’13, has passed on signing with the club and can now ink with a team of his choosing. Per The Hockey News, the four “lead suitors” for Byron are Vegas, New Jersey, Ottawa and Buffalo.

    Byron, 22, is coming off a great year. He racked up 18 goals and 41 points in 36 games, finishing tied for 18th in the country in scoring. It’s unclear where he would’ve fit in the Pittsburgh organization, though, and one has to think the signing of Northeastern’s Zach Aston-Reese might’ve played a factor in his departure.

    In a recent Tribune-Review piece, Byron did make a list of the club’s top-20 prospects, coming in at No. 17.

    Yesterday, Butcher — the reigning Hobey Baker winner — announced that he wouldn’t sign with Colorado, the team that drafted him four years ago. Instead, Butcher will parlay a successful senior campaign at Denver University into interest on the open market.