According to multiple sources, free agent centre Eric Belanger has a one-year deal in waiting to return to the Washington Capitals. The contract is believed to be a slight raise over the $1.75-million he made last season, to $1.85-million.
What's interesting is that he has been told not to announce where he's going, leading to Belanger telling the French language newspaper Le Soleil on Wednesday that he is about to sign but can't say where due to the fact the team he's headed to is working on a trade.
Washington apparently does not want to announce they've signed Belanger in order to help first complete another deal, potentially to move out a forward and bring in a defenceman. I'm told that one player the Caps are looking to trade is 26-year-old Tomas Fleishmann, who had 23 goals and 51 points in a bit of a breakout season last year and signed a one-year, $2.6-million deal this summer.
The one trade the hockey world is expecting in the next few days, meanwhile, is that of Leafs defenceman Tomas Kaberle, whose no-trade clause comes back into effect on Monday. While Washington was rumoured interested in him in the past, Leafs GM Brian Burke said they are not one of the 10 teams that have enquired about Kaberle's availability.
"We are not in discussions with the Capitals about Tomas Kaberle," Burke said. "Not once."
One team to cross off the list.
Other defencemen known to be available by trade include Vancouver's Kevin Bieksa and Edmonton's Sheldon Souray, among others. Several other teams, including the Flyers, have some depth on the blueline and are tight on cap space. The Capitals have room to spare and are also considered one of the front-runners for free agent Willie Mitchell, who is recovered from a concussion and likely the only impact defenceman available to sign.
At this point, however, all that's clear is that Washington and Toronto are nearing trades - just not with one another.
"Right now, we just continue to work the phones," Burke said. "We've seen an increase in the number of teams (interested in Kaberle) and the quality of offers but you're talking about a premier player. This is not an auction where the gavel will bang down on midnight at Sunday and we'll take the best offer. If we don't get an offer we like, we're keeping the player.
"It's really hard to predict what's going to happen."