Matt Beleskey is going to get paid this summer.
The 26-year-old right winger has played very well for the Anaheim Ducks in the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, and his overtime goal in Monday night’s Game 5 win over the Chicago Blackhawks put the Ducks one victory from the Cup Final.
The 2015 free-agent class is pretty weak, and Beleskey currently is one of the better unrestricted free agent options for teams hoping to add scoring and physicality to their top-nine forward group.
Beleskey is enjoying a career season. His 22 goals were more than double his previous career high and his 32 points were eight more than the personal best he set in 2013-14. His goal scoring prowess has carried into the playoffs, where he has seven tallies in 14 games.
These goal-scoring totals probably aren’t sustainable, however.
Beleskey had a career shooting percentage of 8.1 over five NHL seasons entering the 2014-15 campaign. That number drops a fair amount when you take out his 13.1 shooting percentage during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
Beleksey shot 15.2 percent this season, and since that’s nearly double his career average, it’s unlikely he will remain at that level in future seasons. If he doesn’t sustain his 2014-15 rate, his goal scoring should return to the eight to 15 per season range it’s been for most of his pro career. He has just 57 goals in 329 career NHL games and 22 of them were scored in 65 games this season.
If Beleskey isn’t scoring, he’s not going to provide much else. He’s posted just 59 assists in 361 career games, including the playoffs, and he also hasn’t driven puck possession, evidenced by his one season with a 5-on-5 Corsi-for percentage above 50 since 2008-09.
Spending $4 million or more on this type of player just doesn’t make sense.
The Columbus Blue Jackets had a similar situation with top-six winger Nick Foligno this season. He scored 31 goals, 13 more than his previous career high and shot a personal best 17.2 percent. Foligno was signed to a six-year extension worth $5.5 million annually, which could be a very bad deal unless he is able to sustain his really high shooting percentage.
To the Ducks’ credit, they didn’t re-sign Beleskey during the regular season, and it’s likely his lack of long-term security is driving his play this postseason. The smart move for Anaheim would be to thank Beleskey for his offensive production and let him walk as a UFA on July 1.
The Ducks, at various points in the next three to five years, will have to consider signing talented young players such as Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Simon Despres, Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, Frederik Andersen and John Gibson to long-term contracts. Ryan Kesler’s contract expires after next season. The Ducks have drafted as well as any team since the 2004-05 lockout and don’t need a third-line talent such as Beleskey taking up valuable salary cap space.
Teams overpay for physical forwards who score goals. We see it often in free agency. Whichever team does sign Beleskey will be taking a risk, one that might turn into a David Clarkson 2.0 situation.
Thumbnail photo via David Banks-USA TODAY Sports Images. Salary info via General Fanager.
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