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When the Phoenix Coyotes announced the signing of center Eric Belanger on Tuesday night, some fans may have been justifiably confused. 

On Aug. 12, the Globe & Mail reported that Belanger had a 1-year deal in place to return to the Washington Capitals for $1.85 million, which was contingent on Washington making a trade to open up space.

No trade happened. No contract was signed. Over a month later, Eric Belanger(notes) is a Coyote making $750,000 next season. And neither he nor his agent are exactly pleased with the way the Washington Capitals allegedly treated Belanger this summer, especially since he's going to have to yank his children out of a D.C. area school.

The Washington Post, to whom Capitals GM George McPhee declined comment, had this bit from Belanger's agent this morning, talking about how certain the deal was on their end:

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."

Belanger, meanwhile, went on Team 990 in Montreal this morning and discussed how the waiting game with the Capitals caused headaches for his family. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

Q. You expected to go back to the Capitals?

BELANGER: Yes, for over seven weeks. I had a lease on the house, my kids are enrolled in school. We had a verbal agreement 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.

The line has been crossed. I'm looking ahead. This is a great opportunity in Phoenix, and I want to play good for that organization. I feel wanted in Phoenix. They've shown interest for a long time. I'm going to be a very hungry player.

Q. Are you bitter? Are you pissed? How do you feel?

BELANGER: I'm trying to take all that energy and make it into a positive one. It isn't an easy situation for me and my family. The line has been crossed. When it comes to my family, I have a hard time swallowing it.

But like I said: I'm going to turn it into positive energy and I have to do it all over again: Find a house, find schools for the kids, find babysitters and all that stuff. But me and my wife have done it in the past. Everybody's going to be fine. In a couple of months, we're going to look at it and probably tell ourselves that it was the best thing that could happen to us.

The optics on this situation aren't good for the Capitals; there's really no winning a PR battle with a father having to pull his daughters from school and move them across the country.

But honestly: It was a oral agreement, not a signed contract. And someone in the Belanger camp was squawking to the media before the Capitals could make the trade that would result in a contract for Belanger. We're not exactly sure what an NHL general manager's reaction would be upon seeing the oral agreement/trade/contract scenario exposed and his negotiating position hindered, but it probably included the phrase "you've got to be $@$!@# kidding me."

It could also be something more innocent: The Capitals had a trade, it fell through, they didn't believe their deal with Belanger was as cemented as Camp Eric did, and moved on without any notification. 

The fact that Belanger also lost over $1 million in the ordeal, if the numbers are accurate, certainly may have provided kindling for the torch job from him and his agent. 

(UPDATE: Here's Belanger's agent, allowing the Globe & Mail to publish a letter he sent to GM George McPhee. Meanwhile, Dump 'n Chase has the official Capitals retort.)

Just another happy reminder that this wonderful diversionary entertainment we love is, in the end, a business.

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