Last I checked, it seemed as if Eric Belanger was primed to return to the Washington Capitals, which was a logical choice since the team is a bit light on suitable centers. Those rumors have now been proven false, though, as sources including Renaud Lavoie indicate that Belanger signed a one-year, $750K deal with the Phoenix Coyotes today.
Here is more from the Coyotes’ team Web site, including a quote from GM Don Maloney.
Last season, the 6-foot-0, 189-pound Belanger played 77 games with Minnesota and Washington, recording a career high 41 points (15-26-41) and 32 penalty minutes. Belanger started the season with the Wild but was acquired by the Capitals on March 3, 2010.
“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.”
Belanger has scored 13 or more goals and registered 33 or more points in seven of his nine seasons in the NHL. He scored a career-high 17 goals with Los Angeles during the 2005-06 campaign and with Carolina and Atlanta in 2006-07.
Belanger won’t light the world on fire, but he has a nice mixture of skills, grit and savvy. He can play solid defense while chipping in a decent amount of offense, making him a quality pickup for a Coyotes team that made some positive moves this off-season.
I’m starting to come around to the mix of forwards in Phoenix, even if the team will still need to grind out wins next season. Belanger joins another veteran addition in Ray Whitney, along with returning forwards Lee Stempniak and Wojtek Wolski in addition to holdovers such as Shane Doan, Vernon Fiddler and Radim Vrbata. Again, this isn’t a group that will overwhelm you with talent, but I think Maloney is doing a solid job considering the financial constraints he must be working under.