So new Phoenix Coyotes center Eric Belanger is steamed at the Washington Capitals. Why? He claims the team told him they would give him a new contract, just as soon as they could work out a trade to free up the money. Seven weeks passed, and that trade never came, so Belanger signed with the Coyotes.
But even on his way out, Belanger is not happy. He went on the The Team 990 in Montreal to talk about his experience, and had some pretty strong words directed toward the Capitals. When asked why he chose Phoenix, who gave him less money than several other teams, Belanger had this to say (emphasis mine).
You know, it's going to be hard to me to trust anyone else for a while in this business. But [Coyotes GM] Don Maloney has been very good to us, said the right things. There's new ownership that's probably going to be in place sometime in the next few months, and they want to keep the team here. Like I said, if things work out, they're going to take about signing me to an extension. This is a team that wanted to sign me long term earlier in the summer, but the money wasn't there because this organization is under the NHL, but if the new owners come in and things work out, there's a great possibility to sign a long-term deal.
If you're raising your eyebrows about the fact that Belanger is hoping for a long-term extension with Phoenix at the same time he's upset at the Capitals for reneging on their supposed agreement, then you're not alone. I just hope Belanger realizes that, yes, it is a business, and sometimes, trusting that business too much can be problematic. Not to defend the Capitals necessarily, but that's just how it goes sometimes. Verbal (or, more accurately, oral) agreements are not binding in any way. He couldn't have expected the Capitals would definitely complete the necessary trades to bring him back, just like he can't expect that the Coyotes will, in fact, give him that contract extension.
- Belanger on the agreement with the Capitals: "Yeah, [I had one] for over seven weeks. I have a lease on my house, my kids are enrolled in school. We had a verbal agreement about seven weeks ago. They said it would take about a week to make a trade. It wasn't a question of "if" they were making it, it was a question of "when." [They said] 'You're going to be signed, but we didn't want to lose any leverage on the trade.' And we all know the story after that. I'm a loyal guy, but the line has been crossed."
- Belanger on his feelings after the Capitals elected not to bring him back: "I'm trying to take all that 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 has been involved. That's why I have a hard time swallowing it. But like I said, I'm turning it into positive energy, and I have to do it all over again. I have to find a house, find schools, find babysitters for the kids, all that stuff. But you know what? My wife and I will put it in the past, everybody will be fine, and it a couple months, we'll probably look at it like it was the best thing that happened to us."
- Belanger on why he signed in Phoenix: "I feel wanted by them in Phoenix. They showed a lot of interest for a long time, and that's where I'm going to take them."