As excited as we all get for free agent season, sometimes things don’t work out as planned. The Boston Bruins provided the latest example today when they put left winger Matt Beleskey on waivers.
Beleskey, of course, was one of the big names to change addresses in the summer of 2015. He was coming off his best season ever with the Anaheim Ducks, scoring 22 goals in 65 games and adding eight more in the playoffs as Anaheim went all the way to the conference final before losing in seven to the eventual champs from Chicago.
The teams lined up for him and Boston earned the victory, inking Beleskey to a five-year deal with an annual cap hit of $3.8 million. It was a generous amount for a guy with one 20-goal season under his belt, but Beleskey was wanted.
Unfortunately for all involved, the upside never took hold in Boston. His first season was decent, but less productive than the final campaign in Anaheim. Then, in 2016-17, he injured his right knee and spent a bunch of time on the shelf. This year, the bang-and-crasher has been limited to 14 games, no points and less than 11 minutes of ice time per night.
So what happened?
From what I’ve been told, one factor was the coaching change in Boston. Claude Julien liked his team to play a heavy, down-low game and that was great for Beleskey. But Julien was fired last February and replaced by Bruce Cassidy, who brought a different, faster style with him. It’s also important to note that the Bruins are in a playoff spot right now, so you can’t indict Cassidy for his methods. But with roster spots at a premium and Beleskey struggling, something had to give.
So what happens next?
The win-win option is that Beleskey clears waivers, gets to work down in AHL Providence and regains his confidence. He comes back to Boston a reborn player and life goes on. There’s also the possibility that a team claims Beleskey off waivers, giving him a new start and relieving Boston of the final two-and-a-half years of his salary.
The most likely option in my mind, however, is that Beleskey is traded by the Bruins in a deal that sees Boston eat some of his salary. It’s not clean, but it’s probably the most realistic (Beleskey has a limited no-trade clause, but I don’t believe that will be a hindrance).
As for destinations, it’s worth looking at some of the teams that courted Beleskey back in 2015. Four teams that were in the running with Boston were Toronto, Montreal, Anaheim and Calgary (there were likely more, as well).
Toronto would not be an option now. If anything, the Maple Leafs have too many forwards already. I don’t see Calgary working either.
But Montreal and Anaheim are interesting. The Canadiens, after all, are coached by Claude Julien. And we know the Ducks have a coach who likes physicality in Randy Carlyle, so perhaps a homecoming is in order? Anaheim has been destroyed by injuries this year and there is familiarity.
And there will always be a dark horse answer. But for now, Beleskey dangles on waivers. Whatever his next step is, it will be interesting to follow.