Free agent left wing Matt Beleskey scored 22 goals for the Ducks last season. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Poor Matt Beleskey.
He could very well cash in on Wednesday, but you can’t help but feel for the guy.
He’s getting ruined in the press, you see.
The newly 27-year-old left wing might be the most offensively potent free agent in this year’s class, yet he’s at the very top of virtually every “buyer beware” list. Instead of the being billed as the solution to teams’ problems, he’s being billed as the second coming of David Clarkson.
Why? Because he’s only done it once.
“It” being reach the 20-goal plateau, that is. In 65 games for Anaheim last season, Beleskey notched 22 goals and 10 assists for 32 points. Not only was it Beleskey’s only 20-goal season; it was just his second 10-goal season in the NHL, as his previous career high was 11 goals, which he registered in the 2009-10 season as a rookie.
What makes Beleskey’s goal total flash red is the fact that this season saw him play on a line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, two of the best hockey players in the whole wide world. As our pal Nick Goss points out, his shooting percentage nearly doubled last season from his career mark entering the season
As such, arguing that a particular team should sign the player figures to be met with skepticism, but the Bruins could actually be a fit in the right circumstances.
Now, we learned at the draft that the B’s had expressed interest in the player once the window for teams to talk to players and agents opened last week. That was met with a shrug based on the assumption that Beleskey would wisely look to cash in and take the richest deal possible. If such were the case, Boston would be out of the question.
Thinking a bit outside the box, what if he’s actually looking for a good situation where he can try to build on his 20-goal season and try to win without the pressure of living up to an absurd contract?
That’s a big, big “if,” considering how many teams are vying for his services (a lot), but if Beleskey wants to play on a good line on a potential playoff team, Boston could make sense, provided they are actually trying to be a playoff team themselves.
With Milan Lucic traded, the Bruins need a left wing for David Krejci. That could potentially be Loui Eriksson if the Bruins move him to left wing, but the Bruins would then need a wing to replace Eriksson’s minutes elsewhere.
Interestingly enough, Lucic and Beleskey are the same age to the day (June 7, 1988, also the birthday of a very handsome sportswriter). The Bruins paid Lucic $6 million against the cap last season to score 18 goals. If Beleskey could be had for somewhere in the $4-4.5 million range annually, the B’s could expect similar production from him playing on a line with Krejci. With Ryan Spooner ready to take over as the team’s third-line center, the Bruins didn’t have a reason to give Carl Soderberg the five-year, $23.75 million deal he got with the Avalanche, but if Beleskey is willing to take a slightly smaller deal than that, he could be a fit on a team that could use a good left wing.
That would be a tough financial pill to swallow next season given that the Bruins are paying Lucic $2.75 million in retained salary to play elsewhere, but with Spooner continuing to progress, signing Beleskey could give the B’s an option for either their second or third line in the coming years as Brad Marchand (two years remaining on his contract) continues to skate with Patrice Bergeron.
Of course, if he struggles to produce like he did prior to his next contract, the Bruins would find themselves in a similar situation they’ve been in recently with Chris Kelly ($3 million) and the Blackhawks have been in with Bryan Bickell ($4 million).
The Bruins also don’t have a lot of cap space, so if they were to sign Beleskey, that might be the highest-priced player they’d take on this offseason, including possible trade targets. With approximately $61,160,667 committed to 16 players not counting Ryan Spooner’s two-year extension, the Bruins do not have a ton of spending money underneath the $71.4 million upper limit. Team’s can be 10 percent over the cap during the offseason, but they might need to trade someone (perhaps Kelly) at some point if they want to give Beleskey a decent contract.
Don Sweeney says the Bruins aren’t rebuilding. After losing Lucic, the team could do worse than to bring in a tough left wing whose career could still be progressing. Beleskey’s only a major risk if he’s given major dollars, so the Bruins should see what he’d be willing to take in Boston before he makes his decision.