The Eric Belanger – Washington Capitals Saga begins

Eric Belanger signed with the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday, a 1 year deal worth $750,000. It has been out there that he had a verbal agreement with the Washington Capitals for well over a month on a 1 year deal worth $1.85 million. The deal was apparently contingent on the Capitals clearing a bit of cap space, rumored to be a Tomas Fleischmann trade, which never materialized. Belanger’s agent, has now made statements bad mouthing the Capitals and how they handled the situation.

  • Katie Carrera of the Washington Post: The Capitals have never said they had an agreement with Belanger, GM George McPhee wouldn’t comment, a team spokesman said they team never had a contract agreement with Belanger. Joe Tacopina, Belanger’s agent has said that they did have an agreement, the team helped Belanger get a lease on a house and helped enroll his kids in a Washington school.

    “It’s just disingenuous,” Tacopina said. “Despite a two-way commitment and requesting Eric to commit to them and take himself out of the mix, when they wound up not being able to make the trade several weeks later, they decided they couldn’t sign him.”

  • James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail: Belanger’s agent, Joe Tacopina is threatening legal action against the Capitals for backing out of Belanger’s contract offer. Apparently a deal was made over the phone on July 16th, but wouldn’t be official until a trade was made. In mid-August, the Capitals assistant GM informed Tacopina that the deal may not happen, after they helped him move to Washington and enroll his kids in a school. An agent has said the Belanger’s agent mishandled the situation.

    “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.”

    In Mirtle’s article, there is a copy of an email that Tacopina sent to Caps GM George McPhee on August 28th.

  • Jeff Marek via twitter: Capitals owner, Ted Leonisis, says that Vogul’s article (below) shows their side of things.
  • Ben Wright via twitter: Wright responds to Marek saying it’s interesting how they didn’t put it on their (Capitals) website, but had a team employee write it.
  • Mike Vogul of Dump ‘n chase: Vogul provides a view from the Capitals side of things. Discussions began to place between Belanger’s agents and the Caps assistant GM, Don Fishman, back in June. Belanger wanted a 3-4 year deal, Capitals countered with 2 years and $3 million. The Caps were informed that Belanger rejected the deal, he was looking for a big contract, and wouldn’t take less than $2 million. Vogul points out that Belanger is Tacopina and his firm MASE only NHL client. Tacopina told the Caps(in July)  that Belanger would do a 1 year deal, throwing out the $1.85 million number. The Caps said they could do that, but would need to move out some salary before it work for them. This was before Fleischmann’s arbitration hearing and they didn’t want to commit to a salary before taking one off. They were also interested in bringing Willie Mitchell, who ultimately signed on Aug. 25th with the Kings. Mid-August the Capitals told the Belanger side that all was quiet on the trade front and if they had something else with another club, they shouldn’t wait for the Caps. They told the Capitals they would wait, and leaked the Capitals deal to the Canadian media. McPhee personally called Belanger in the last 2 weeks saying they couldn’t move forward with the deal, but offered a tryout while he waited for an offer from another club. Belanger signed with Coyotes instead. Belanger and Tacopina chose to risk waiting for Capitals to make a trade, instead of signing elsewhere.