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Wild Signs Center Eric Belanger

by Glen Andresen / Minnesota Wild
Eric Belanger picked up 17 goals for the second consecutive year in 2006-07.
In the 2006-2007 Los Angeles Kings media guide, center Eric Belanger names his favorite road arena as Minnesota's Xcel Energy Center. He'll have to pick a new favorite. The Xcel Energy Center will now be home to Belanger, who put his John Hancock on a multi-year deal with the Wild on Tuesday.

The Wild also announced the signing of goaltender Nolan Schaefer on Tuesday.

Belanger fills a void at the center position, which is currently filled only by Mikko Koivu and Dominic Moore. Todd White signed with Atlanta on Sunday. The club also announced the re-signing of Wes Walz on Tuesday afternoon.

Belanger's game fits the style that is coveted by Minnesota's management and coaching staff. He plays a sound defensive game, and he has shown the ability to score. The Sherbrooke, Quebec notched 17 goals in each of the last two seasons and 30 points in each of the last four. He can also handle himself around the faceoff dot, winning 53.1% of the draws he took in 2006-07.

"Eric is a strong two-way center who can score, play a responsible game and bring consistent energy at both ends of the rink," said Wild President and General Manager, Doug Risebrough.

After spending five years with the Los Angeles Kings, Belanger was part of a trade to Carolina prior to the 2006-07 season that brought highly touted defensive prospect Jack Johnson to Los Angeles. He was then sent to Atlanta prior to the trade deadline.

Nolan Schaefer appears to be Josh Harding's competition for the backup role in Minnesota this season.
Schaefer, 27, adds depth to the Wild's goaltending corps following the trade of Manny Fernandez to Boston. Schaefer has little NHL experience, although he appeared in seven games with San Jose in 2006-07 and lost just once - to Minnesota. He posted a 5-1-0 record that year with a 1.88 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. Last season, he appeared with three AHL teams. He finished the season in Wilkes-Barred and posted a 9-5-0 record in 15 games. He posted a 5-6 record in 11 AHL playoff games.

Schaefer's arrival means Josh Harding will have some competition for the backup role in Minnesota, although it seems likely that Harding will start the year in St. Paul.

"Nolan is a young goaltender with a strong record in the minor leagues and some experience in the NHL, and has great potential to become a full-time NHL goaltender," said Assistant General Manager Tom Lynn.
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