Well, this morning, Eric Belanger is a Phoenix Coyote, having signed a one-year deal for a reported $750,000, a sum that is $1 million less than he earned last season. Belanger’s agent, Joe Tacopina, was not pleased at the Capitals’ treatment of his client:
"It's just disingenuous. 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."
Agent’s spin their tales to put their clients in the best light, and sometimes that means taking on the air of the aggrieved party, whether the circumstances fit the narrative or not. But this certainly has been a bizarre case from start to finish. It isn’t the first time the Caps have been involved in a tale with many twists and turns, however. You don’t even have to go too far back in time to find them. Two seasons ago, there was the matter of Bill Guerin and a “mystery team” to which he was going to be traded. Speculation at the time centered on Washington, and there was no lack of discussion about that potential destination.
Then there was the almost year-long mystery surrounding the eventual destination of exiled center Michael Nylander. He had a role in the Guerin story (mostly about his having to be moved to clear salary cap room to accommodated Guerin’s salary), but he was a candidate to settle in any number of world locales – Switzerland, Russia, Finland, Michigan.
Now we have Eric Belanger, the unmade deal, and the mystery trade that was never made. The Caps have been quite the mystery over the last couple of years. And their close-to-the-vest manner of operating, leaking little, but leaving much to the imagination – no better personified than by the poker-faced general manager George McPhee – makes for interesting reading.
We might call it “The Boy With The Inscrutable Expression.”