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Belanger returns to Capitals

By Katie Carrera
Friday, August 13, 2010; D2

An NHL source confirmed Thursday that free agent center Eric Belanger has agreed in principle to a one-year, $1.85 million deal to return to the Washington Capitals for the 2010-11 season.

The agreement has been in the works for some time, the source said, adding that the team is waiting to formally announce the signing after the Capitals make additional roster changes. The Globe and Mail first reported that Belanger would return to the Capitals and according to that account, Washington may be exploring trade options to possibly bring in a defenseman.

Capitals General Manager George McPhee declined to comment through a team spokesman on the situation.

Belanger, who finished the 2009-10 regular season ninth in the NHL in faceoff win percentage (59.4), is expected to compete with Marcus Johansson, Brooks Laich, David Steckel, Boyd Gordon and Mathieu Perreault for ice time behind first-line center Nicklas Backstrom.

In 24 games with the Capitals after being acquired from the Minnesota Wild at the trade deadline this past season, Belanger, 32, recorded two goals and five assists.

Signing Belanger at $1.85 million would leave Washington with one spot remaining under the maximum roster size of 23 players and just more than$3.4 million in space under the NHL's $59.4 million salary cap, according to calculations on Capgeek.com.

It remains unclear what other deal the team may be trying to finalize before announcing Belanger's return, but according to The Globe and Mail's report, Tomas Fleischmann, who signed a one-year, $2.6 million contract this summer, may be in the mix.

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