About a month ago, the news came out that the Washington Capitals had an agreement in principle with free-agent forward Eric Belanger. It was a one-year deal worth somewhere around the $1.7 or $1.8 million range.
That never happened. Belanger signed with the Coyotes late yesterday for considerably less money -- reportedly $750,000 for one year -- and in the aftermath of his departure from Washington, he and his agent are speaking out against broken promises.
According to the players' camp, the Caps not only told Belanger they would sign him once they cleared some space, they even went as far as to help him find a house and enroll his children in D.C-area schools.
The agent, Joe Tacopina, was quoted in the Washington Post this morning.
"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."
Belanger himself went on TEAM 990's morning show in Montreal this morning, as well.
Yeah, for over seven weeks. I had a lease on a house, the kids are 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 were making it. It was a question of when. I'm a loyal guy but the line has been crossed. I'm looking ahead.
I'm trying to take all the energy and turn it into a positive one. It's not an easy situation for me and my family. Like I said, the line has been crossed. When my family is involved, that's when I have a hard time swallowing. But I have to turn it into good energy and do it all over again: find a house, find schools, babysitters and all that stuff.
But, you know what? Me and my wife have done it in the past and we'll do it and everyone is going to be fine. We'll look back on it in a few months and it'll be the best thing that ever happened to us.
The Capitals have yet to comment on the issue.
UPDATE: Mike Vogel from the Caps website has written a post on his blog, Dump 'n Chase, about the Belanger story. An excerpt appears below, but click over to read the whole thing.
Washington wondered what kind of deal Belanger would take at this point. Told that Belanger would accept a one-year deal, the Caps inquired as to the dollars. Tacopina mentioned the $1.85 million figure. Washington said it could do that deal, but that it would need to move a contract in order to make it work internally.
A month passed, bringing us to mid-August. The Caps told Tacopina that things were really quiet on the trade front, and that if they had something else they wanted to do with another club, they shouldn’t wait. If Belanger had anything else on the table at that point, it probably wasn’t as lucrative as Washington’s offer. Tacopina told the Caps they’d wait. At that point, the Belanger camp opted to leak news of the "deal" to a Canadian media outlet. Which is rarely a good idea.
If it was already hard for the Caps to make a deal, it certainly didn’t get any easier when the word got out that Washington reportedly had an agreement with Belanger, but couldn’t move forward without a corresponding subtraction from the roster and the balance sheet.
Earlier today, The Globe & Mail got their hands on an email between Tacopina and the Caps, which is just as interesting as the Caps take on all of this.