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.

Bettman to players: Don’t screw up ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ with drugs

Gary Bettman
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The NHL wants to take an educational approach — not a punitive one — to deter its players from using illicit drugs like cocaine.

“My interest is not to go around punishing people,” Bettman told Sportsnet today.

“My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”

While some players have expressed surprise at hearing that cocaine use is growing, the anecdotal evidence of substance abuse has been very much in the news, from Jarret Stoll‘s arrest to Mike Richards’ arrest to, more recently, Zack Kassian‘s placement in the NHL/NHLPA’s treatment program.

“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.”

Related: Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?

Goalie nods: Jones makes Sharks debut against ex-Kings mates

Martin Jones
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News and notes from around the crease…

Jones goes for San Jose

Martin Jones, acquired by the Sharks this summer, will make his first regular-season start for the club tonight against his old team — the Los Angeles Kings.

Jones, 25, spent the last two years in L.A. as Jonathan Quick‘s understudy. He was flipped to Boston at the NHL Entry Draft, then shipped to San Jose. Sharks GM Doug Wilson wasted little time locking Jones in — signing him to a three-year, $9 million extension — and Jones wasted little time locking up the No. 1 gig, putting together a stellar preseason.

For the Kings, Quick will get the start in goal.

Markstrom out for Vancouver

Jacob Markstrom wasn’t scheduled to start for the Canucks tonight — No. 1 Ryan Miller is getting the call — but the Swedish ‘tender won’t even dress when his club takes on the Flames in Calgary.

Markstrom suffered a lower-body injury at practice this week and is being held out of tonight’s action. In his place, the Canucks called up AHL netminder Richard Bachman, who’ll serve as Miller’s backup.

For the Flames, Karri Ramo is the opening-night starter.


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