Where are they now? Eric Belanger

Where are they now? Eric Belanger
August 12, 2014, 4:00 pm
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(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Have you ever watched a hockey game and thought to yourself, whatever happened to that guy?

Hockey, like all professional sports, is a tough business. Team legends can spend many years in one city but find themselves looking for a new team at the end of their careers. Other players can be brought in to bolster the roster but quietly leave through free agency or trades.

Here’s a look at some former Caps who for whatever reason no longer don the red as we try to answer the question, “Where are they now?”

Eric Belanger

Played for Caps: March 2010 - April 2010

Stats with Caps: 17 GP, 2 G, 4 A, 6 Pts, Postseason: 7 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 Pt

The Washington Capitals' current need for a second line center is not a recent development, the team has plugged in a handful of players over the years hoping something would stick. One such player was Belanger.

The Caps decided to leave nothing to chance in 2010 and made several trade deadline deals despite being atop the Eastern Conference standings. One such deal was bringing in Belanger from Minnesota for a second-round draft pick.

As you can guess from his eye-popping stats above, Belanger was not brought in for his offensive prowess, but rather as a faceoff specialist and steady presence in the middle; just the type of guy a young, trigger happy team needed to help balance out the lineup.

And then Montreal happened. Belanger, like the rest of the Caps, got Halak'd that postseason and was left contemplating his future.

[RELATED: Capitals' Top 25 impact players for 2014-15: No. 9  Troy Brouwer]

With the Caps in need of a second line center and Belanger in need of a new contract, it looked as if Belanger's return was a done deal. That's when things got interesting.

The saga that unfolded was a veritable he said she said more worthy of a daytime soap opera than NHL free agency.

The Globe & Mail reported that Belanger had a deal in place to return to Washington in mid-August, but in mid-September, Belanger had signed with Phoenix. So what happened? According to Belanger and his agent, the Caps informed the center that they would re-sign him after trading another player in order to free up the necessary cap space. That trade obviously never happened and Belanger suddenly found himself in search of a new team.

From the Caps' point of view, getting a fair deal on a trade becomes impossible when details of a contract that is contingent on that trade get leaked. Suddenly everyone in the NHL knows you're not only desperate to sell, you've already made plans for after the trade.

Whatever may have happened, Belanger found himself in the desert and the Caps have been looking for a second line center ever since.

Belanger had a strong season in Phoenix with 13 goals and 27 assists and earned a three-year deal with Edmonton. That's when his numbers fell off a cliff.

For his career, Belanger typically hovered around 35 to 40 points per season. In his first season at Edmonton, Belanger's numbers took a nosedive as he managed only four goals and 12 assists. He then failed to score at all in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season and tallied only three assists. Edmonton elected to use a compliance buyout after that second season to cut ties with the struggling center.

Belanger signed with Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg of the KHL, but could not adjust to the Russian league and decided to retire from hockey after playing in just seven games and recording no points.

Belanger's lasting legacy in Washington is the infamous teeth game. In Game 4 against Montreal in 2010, Belanger was hit with a high stick that knocked out several of his teeth. He made his way back to the bench and, while getting cleaned up, calmly reached into his mouth, pulled out a tooth, handed it to the trainer and was back out on the ice just a few minutes later.

Hockey players, ladies and gentlemen, are a tough breed.

[MORE: THN: Playoff-bound Caps picked 4th in Metropolitan Division]