The Boston Bruins' wild team turnover continued July 1, as GM Don Sweeney and president Cam Neely snagged the man plenty of insiders pegged as the top free agent forward on the market: Matt Beleskey, formerly of the Anaheim Ducks. Boston also traded wingers with the Florida Panthers, swapping Reilly Smith for Jimmy Hayes.
Beleskey, 27, is a rugged left winger who cut his teeth in the OHL and and has overachieved of late in the NHL. He earned every one of his 22 goals with hard work, and he's a perfectly helpful complementary piece, but he's not a natural scorer.
Sound familiar? Signing Beleskey carried the risk of signing the next David Clarkson. Beleskey has just one 20-goal season to his name. Clarkson had a Stanley Cup final and a 30-goal campaign when he signed his seven-year, $36.75-million contract. But the Beleskey money – five years and $19 million, meaning $3.8 million per – turned out to be fairly reasonable. It's nowhere near Clarkson territory.
With Beleskey joining the Bruins' wings, and the 6-foot-6 Hayes taking over for puck-possession darling Smith, the Bruins have made themselves harder to play against and helped account for the loss of blunt instrument Milan Lucic. Another crucial element of the deal, as reported by ESPN's Pierre LeBrun: the Panthers will take on Marc Savard's contract. The Bruins' former star center, whose career is essentially ended due to concussions, spent years under long-term injured reserve status, a-la Chris Pronger. The Panthers were flirting with the salary floor and can handle Savard's $4.03-million cap hit. Since Savard's money counts during the summer, the Bruins needed to shed his deal to make room for Beleskey. Clever work by Sweeney there.
So, to take stock of Sweeney's handiwork over his bananas week of activity, looking only at guys with the big club:
Gone: Dougie Hamilton, Milan Lucic, Carl Soderberg, Nikas Svedberg, Matt Bartkowski, Reilly Smith
Arrived: Matt Beleskey, Zac Rinaldo, Jimmy Hayes
I didn't include Martin Jones, as he never played a minute for Boston. He was Bruins property only a few days. And that list obviously doesn't reflect the three straight first-round picks Boston acquired and used last Friday at the draft. The point is, though, that this team's starting lineup for October looks a lot weaker thus far. Even if Sweeney insists no rebuild is underway, it sure looks like it, which makes the Beleskey signing curious. What is this team's identity? When was the last time one franchise acquired and used three straight first-rounders and signed the top UFA forward in the same week? Conflicting messages.