If you thought Eric Belanger signing with the Coyotes came as a surprise, you’re not alone. Weeks ago, rumors were flying about how Belanger would soon be signing with the Washington Capitals and that there would be a subsequent move happening in order to squeeze him into the lineup. After all, the Caps already had enough forwards to roll with to start the year, so someone was going to have to be moved in order to get Belanger in the lineup so he didn’t end up being an overpaid fourth line center.
As it turns out, those rumors about the Caps interest were true. They were so true, in fact, that Belanger’s agent is sounding off on the Caps for turning their back on his client. Fire up the controversy machine as Katie Carrera of Caps Insider gives up the scoop.
Belanger’s agent, Joe Tacopina, said the Capitals did have a deal to bring back Belanger and even helped him sign a lease for a house in Washington and enroll his two daughters in area schools.
“It’s just disingenuous,” Tacopina said. “Despite a two-way commitment and requesting Eric to commit to them and take himself out of the [free agent] mix, when they wound up not being able to make the trade several weeks later, they decided they couldn’t sign him.”
To call the situation awkward would be accurate. The rumored deal with the Capitals was said to be worth $1.85 million and Belanger signed with Phoenix for $1.1 million less than that, so there’s a money issue at stake here. Belanger told the Team 990 in Montreal that he had been waiting for a while to get something done with Washington.
“I had been waiting for over seven weeks. I had a lease on a house, my kids were enrolled in school. We had a verbal agreement over seven weeks ago. They said it would take about a week to make a trade. It wasn’t a question of if we’re making it, it was a question of when because they didn’t want to lose any leverage on the trade and we all know the story after that.”
Unfortunately for the Caps, this isn’t new territory for them.
In the summer of 2007, the Caps signed Michael Nylander to a four-year contract that stole him out from under the nose of the Edmonton Oilers. Perhaps this is just karmic contract retribution for that fiasco, but you’d have to think the Caps are already being punished for that because Nylander’s Caps career has been a complete failure.
Just so we can get rid of the elephant in the room here, you have to wonder if perhaps the news breaking over the then imminent signing of Belanger and trade to be made is what killed the deal for Washington. There’s a lot to be said about the element of surprise when it comes to some trades, but many organizations do their work far from the public eye because it helps them get a deal done faster and without the “prying media” asking too many questions.
If a deal was to happen so soon when the news broke about this for Belanger, the fact that it seemingly went to pieces the instant the story broke seems to indicate that Caps GM George McPhee lost his leverage in making a deal now that the watchful eyes of Caps Country were waiting to see who was going to get shipped out. If the Caps address anything about this, it’ll be fascinating to hear what their take on it will be because it’s apparent that Belanger is really upset over the situation.