Does Eric Belanger have a 'leg to stand on' in pursuing legal actions against the Capitals?

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Thumbnail image for georgemcpheecapsgm.jpgWhen word broke that Eric Belanger signed with the Phoenix Coyotes yesterday, I have to admit that I was stunned that his deal with the Washington Capitals didn’t work out. As we’ve learned today, Belanger was stunned too, as his agent Joe Tacopina lashed out at Capitals management including general manager George McPhee (seen in the photo to the right) for breaking their verbal contract.

The story might not end with mere hurt feelings, though. Belanger reportedly trusted the parties enough to get a lease on a DC-area house and enrolled his children in area schools, thinking that he would be a Capitals center once again. If that wasn’t enough, the deal he signed with the Coyotes was for $750K, more than a million less than the supposed word-of-honor deal with the Caps. His agent Tacopina discussed the possibility of taking legal action against Washington, a scenario that encouraged debate among hockey agents, writers and bloggers.

The Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle published Tacopina’s comments and also quoted a veteran rival who thinks that legal moves would go nowhere.

“They should be ashamed of how they handled this situation,” Tacopina said of McPhee and Fishman.

“We’re pursuing and evaluating our legal options in that regard.”

[snip]

A contract, however, was never signed and registered with the league, an arrangement several veteran player agents said they would never have agreed to.

“They don’t have a legal leg to stand on,” one agent said Wednesday. “The entire situation is governed by the CBA. An agent and the player are obligated under the CBA to not take individual legal action or you can lose your certification to be an agent … The sole remedy would be a grievance.

“The grievance precedent is 100 per cent crystal clear: Unless you have a signed standard player contract on file, registered with the NHL, you have nothing.”

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for ericbelanger.jpgTyler Dellow – an Oilers oriented hockey blogger with a legal background – disagrees with the veteran agent’s stance that the entire situation would be governed by the CBA, though. Read the full article for a more fleshed out discussion of the legal possibilities at play here, but I think the final two paragraphs of his piece illustrate that it’s not impossible for Belanger to take some kind of action. (Even if Dellow points out that it’s plausible that his agent might be somewhat culpable for giving him poor advice, too.)

 … Tacopina takes a hammering in Mirtle’s article for his failure to get a signed deal. I have some difficulty with that. While we all know that there’s no deal under the CBA until one is signed, a lot of lawyers work on trust when it comes to their dealings with other lawyers. George McPhee is a lawyer. Don Fishman’s title is Director of Legal Affairs, so I assume he’s a lawyer as well. If you can’t trust the lawyer with whom you’re dealing, a lot of legal dealings become a lot more arduous. Lawyers will generally try to accomodate one another when they can and, where someone is told that a deal is done but that it won’t be formalized yet for other reasons, I can understand why Tacopina was inclined to let it go. You generally get to burn someone like Tacopina has been burned only once though, if it’s public enough, as this is.

In any event, regardless of the potential legal consequences, if there’s any truth to Tacopina’s account, the Capitals have acted in a pretty despicable manner, most likely to Belanger’s detriment. Doctrines like promissory estoppel arose as a response to shortfalls in contract law, as basically a way for courts to protect reasonable expectations that people form in circumstances where they’ve relied on the promises of others to their detriment. Even if there is no legal remedy here – and I’m not an American lawyer and this has been sort of stream of consciousness thinking, if you need legal advice, you should speak to a lawyer – the Capitals’ conduct is shameful. The Capitals can probably forget about ever getting the slightest indulgence again from a player, because there isn’t an agent in the world who would advise them to do so. That’s something that has a cost, even if they saved money by not signing Belanger.

What does this all mean? Well, Belanger might have a leg to stand on, even if that leg is atrophied. He can provide some tangible examples of how the broken verbal contract hurts him (house lease, kids enrolled, lost free agent negotiation opportunities) but very little in writing beyond the letter/e-mail Tacopina provided in Mirtle’s story.

Chances are that Belanger will just have a lot of hard feelings for the Capitals organization and many outsiders might find it a little tougher to root for the high octane, but perhaps ethically questionable franchise. Then again, dissenters will simply say that the Caps weren’t bound to the center and would have done the right thing if they simply were able to trade an extra player.

It’s probably been blown out of proportion a bit, but there’s little doubt that the poorly handled situation had a negative impact on Belanger. Is it enough to fuel a successful lawsuit? Probably not, but it certainly doesn’t put the parties involved in a very good light. Then again, we haven’t heard much from the Capitals side of the story, so maybe there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

Two late goals allows Ducks to beat ‘Canes in shootout

Anaheim Ducks' Nick Ritchie, left, celebrates his goal as he skates past Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward, right, and Jay McClement during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Anaheim, Calif. The Ducks won 6-5 in shootout. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Former Anaheim Ducks great Teemu Selanne had a philosophy about scoring goals. The Ducks are hoping his “ketchup bottle theory” applies to star winger Corey Perry.

Perry and Nick Ritchie scored late in the third period to tie it and rookie Ondrej Kase got the deciding goal in a shootout, lifting the Ducks over the Carolina Hurricanes 6-5 on Wednesday night.

After Ritchie deflected in Cam Fowler‘s shot with 3:59 left in the third, Perry got his fifth goal of the season with 2:28 remaining to tie it at 5.

“It’s nice to see it hit the back of the net for once, and not the goalie,” Perry said.

Perry, who scored 34 goals last year and won the Hart Trophy with 50 in 2010-11, hadn’t scored since Oct. 25, but said he’s hoping this goal leads to more.

“There was a player that I coached before and his name was Teemu Selanne,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “He used to say that goal scoring was like pouring ketchup out of the ketchup bottle. Once it starts to flow, then it comes readily.”

It was the first non-regulation win for the Ducks this season and it was aided by Anaheim’s young core. Kase slickly deked to his backhand before lifting his shootout attempt over Cam Ward. Stefan Noesen, recalled from San Diego of the American Hockey League earlier in the day, got his first NHL goal, and Andrew Cogliano and Ryan Kesler also scored for Anaheim. John Gibson made 29 saves.

“The light went on and I threw my hands up,” Noesen said. “It was all of the emotions from two long years coming through at once.”

Teuvo Teravainen scored twice for the Hurricanes, and Jay McClement, Sebastian Aho and Brett Pesce also had goals. Ward made 33 saves while Carolina matched a season high with five goals.

“There were a couple breakdowns,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said. “At times, I thought we did a real good job at controlling the tempo of the game. We had the puck lots. But we need to do a better job defensively and have a better awareness away from the puck.”

Pesce scored on a slap shot 4:46 into the third period to give the Hurricanes a 4-2 lead. Kesler scored about four minutes later to cut the deficit, but Teravainen’s second goal a minute later made it 5-3.

Noesen scored at 13:52 in the second period to make it 3-2. Joseph Cramarossa and Kase, Noesen’s former San Diego Gulls teammates and roommate, were credited with the assists.

“They’re both two of my pretty good friends,” Noesen said. “I think no matter what happens, it was special. Seeing Cram’ being the first one to come hug me and get the puck, that was awesome.”

     Read more: The Ducks have a youth movement of their own

Less than two minutes after McClement broke a 1-1 tie with a backhand around Gibson at 10:10 in the second period, Aho broke away, faked a shot and backhanded it over Gibson to make it 3-1.

With 38 seconds left in the first period, Teravainen tied it at 1 with a power-play goal. Jaccob Slavin couldn’t get a stick on a pass and instead used his skate to get it over to the right circle, where Teravainen found it and ripped a slap shot past Gibson.

Cogliano put the Ducks on the board with just over three minutes left in the first, when he went five-hole on Ward with his own rebound, his seventh of the season.

 

Erik Karlsson hit another impressive milestone

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Erik Karlsson‘s had a terrific career in the NHL so far and he’s still just 26 years old.

He already owns two Norris Trophies (2011-12, 2014-15) and his ability to move the puck and put up points from the blue line is second to none.

Last year, Karlsson played in all 82 games and he finished with an incredible 82 points.

He’s on pace to do exactly the same thing this year, as he’s scored 27 points in the first 27 games of the season. Only Connor McDavid, Nikita Kucherov and Evgeni Malkin have more points than the Sens defenseman in 2016-17.

So with that in mind, it’s not surprising that Karlsson’s crushing some important franchise records so early in his career.

In Wednesday’s game against San Jose, Karlsson became the team’s all-time leading scorer among defensemen with  412 points.

Wade Redden, who held the record before Karlsson, picked up 410 points as a Senator, but he accomplished that in 332 more games. That’s equivalent to four more seasons.

Predictably, he downplayed the accomplishment.

“Right now, not much,” Karlsson said of his new record, per the Ottawa Sun. “It’s fun in a way, but it’s something that you reflect back on when your career is over. Hopefully mine isn’t for a long time.”

Here’s something about Karlsson you might not have known: He currently leads the league in blocked shots with 78, which is eight more than Flames defenseman Mark Giordano, who’s second.

PHT Morning Skate: NHL’s concussion spotters are off to a rough start

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–The NHL now has concussion spotters watching every game from the league’s headquarters in New York. These spotters have the power to remove players from games if they think they’re concussed. In theory, it seems to be a good idea, but the spotters have had a tough time so far. (Associated Press)

–Sean McIndoe takes a look at five players that have been confusing to follow this season. Some are confusing because they’ve overachieved and others are confusing because they’ve flopped so far in 2016-17. (The Hockey News)

–The Penguins’ third pairing of Ian Cole and Justin Schultz have been solid this season because they’ve kept things simple. The duo wants more ice time, but they don’t want to stray away from what’s made them successful. “If we’re given more responsibility, we’re certainly very excited for that and are ready to run with that opportunity. I don’t think we should try to change anything,” said Cole. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

–The Boston Bruins were down 3-0 to the Washington Capitals last night, but they managed to fight back and force overtime. Unfortunately for the Bruins, Caps center Nicklas Backstrom scored the game-winning goal in the extra frame. You can watch the highlights of the game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews donated $1 million to a community center in his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. “From my earliest days playing hockey, Dakota Community Centre has always played a pivotal role in my upbringing and my career”, Toews said. (The Score)

–Nashville Predators teammates Mike Ribeiro and P.K. Subban go head-to-head in a game of pickup basketball. The matchup was pretty one-sided. Let’s just say they should both stick to hockey.

–Last Week, the ‘Hawks were forced to sign an emergency goalie after Corey Crawford was unable to play. They settled on Eric Semborski, who is an employee at the Flyers’ practice facility. Now, Topps decided to create a hockey card of Semborski.

Condon keeps standing on his head for Sens, this time sinking Sharks

SAN JOSE, CA - DECEMBER 07:  Mike Condon #1 of the Ottawa Senators makes a save on a shot taken by Mikkel Boedker #89 of the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on December 7, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Chris Kelly scored with 1:06 remaining and Jean-Gabriel Pageau added an empty-net goal, giving the Ottawa Senators a 4-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night.

Mark Stone and Erik Karlsson also scored for the Senators, who beat the Sharks for a fifth straight time. They’ve won three straight in San Jose for the first time ever.

Logan Couture and Brent Burns scored for the Sharks, who had a three-game winning streak snapped.

Mike Condon stopped 35 of 37 shots for the Sens. The Sharks outshot Ottawa 18-4 in the third period, and Martin Jones allowed three goals on 16 shots overall.

The Senators struck quickly, recording a power-play goal less than four minutes into the contest. Mike Hoffman tossed the puck toward the net and it bounced off Burns’ skate. Burns lost sight of it and Stone picked it up, firing past everybody into the net.

Hoffman has a point in six straight games and in eight of nine since missing a pair of contests with an injury.

Karlsson made it 2-0 with a goal about four minutes later. Sharks defender Brendan Dillon tried clearing it from in front of the net, but Karlsson was right there to fire it to the high glove side.

Couture got the Sharks on the board with a power-play goal midway through the second period. The Senators cleared the puck two straight possessions before Joe Pavelski rushed to the net and then slipped the puck to an open Couture, who has six goals in his past eight games, about 10 feet away for the score.

Burns tied the score 6:30 into the third period, methodically working the puck to set up a shot that squeezed past Condon to the glove side.

NOTES: Senators D Marc Methot missed his fourth straight contest with a lower body injury. … Stone has eight points in his last six games. … Karlsson has nine points in his last five games. … The Sharks recalled F Kevin LeBlanc and D Mirco Mueller. Mueller was a healthy scratch. … Sharks D Paul Martin recorded his 300th NHL point with an assist on Burns’ goal.

UP NEXT:

Senators: Continue a four-game trip at the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

Sharks: Travel to Anaheim for a game Friday night and then return home to face Carolina on Saturday night.