Matt Beleskey Will Get Paid, And It Better Not Be In Ottawa


It happens every year. Some player who isn’t a star scores a ton of goals in the playoffs and makes a name for himself. Many times this player will also be an impending free agent, meaning that he will get lots of money on his next deal with whatever team. There are plenty of recent examples I can think of including Ville Leino, Joel Ward, Bryan Bickell, and Dave Bolland.

Now it seems that the name this year is Matt Beleskey, who is the topic of this weeks Tuesdy’s Tirade. Don’t get me wrong, Beleskey is a fine player. He has scored 7 goals in 14 playoff games, which is much better than his regular season numbers. He has also been a hero for the Anaheim Ducks so far, and he scored the overtime winner last night in Game five to give the Ducks a 3-2 series lead. Saying that he hasn’t been good these playoffs is simply false.

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However, we shouldn’t expect this kind of production for the rest of his career. Because of his strong playoff run, I’m worried that the Ottawa Senators will be looking at him to be their elusive “top six forward.” Bryan Murray has said repeatedly that one of his goals this summer is to get another top forward. There aren’t many options in free agency, but Beleskey will be front and centre.

You can bet that he will get paid this summer, as teams overpay players every single year. In fact, Elliotte Friedman says he could get quite the handsome sum:

$5 million is a lot of money, and for that kind of production you have to be at least a fringe first line player or a near top defenseman. Beleskey is neither of those things, as his career high in points is 32. But teams like seeing playoff producers, and they will pay accordingly. That doesn’t mean his contract will be good, instead it will most likely be awful.

Let’s look at some comparables like I mentioned before. Ville Leino is a great example, as he put up 53 points in the regular season and 21 in 19 games in the playoffs. However, that was his age 27 season and before that he had never scored more than 11 points in a season. Predictably after his amazing playoffs, he got signed to a massive 6 year deal with a $4.5 million cap hit by Buffalo. With the Sabres he scored 36 points in 137 games, and was bought out with three years left on his deal.

Joel Ward is another example, although he has been quite successful with Washington. After scoring 13 points in 12 playoff games in 2011, he signed a 4 year deal worth $3 million per year. At the time it seemed like a bad deal, and his first season he only got 18 points in 73 games. Since then though, he has been worth the money, averaging 42 points a season the last three years.

Apr 27, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals right wing Joel Ward (42) celebrates on the ice after the Capitals

For the kind of average cap hit Ward is making, he has actually been worth it for the Capitals. However, the same cannot be said for the next two players. Bryan Bickell is quite the expensive bottom six forward for the Blackhawks, and he is part of the reason why they are so close to the cap. After netting 17 points in 23 playoff games in their 2013 Cup run, he was re-signed to a 4 year deal worth $4 million a year.

How has he re-paid them since? By scoring 15 points in 59 games and 28 points in 81 games in the last two seasons, respectively. He is a solid third line player, but for the kind of money they are paying him he’s not worth it. Now Chicago has to trade some important players like Patrick Sharp in the off-season because they have overpaid someone like Bickell, amongst others.

The last comparable that I could think of is Dave Bolland. Although Bolland didn’t have an amazing 2013 playoffs, he did score the Cup clinching goal in the last minute of game six for Chicago. He only had 6 points in 18 games, but analysts like Steve Simmons will always point out that he “knows how to score in big moments.”

Bolland wasn’t a free agent immediately after those playoffs, but he was acquired right after by the Toronto Maple Leafs. For some reason he was beloved by them, despite playing in only 23 games. Then last summer he signed a mega deal with Florida, worth $5.5 million for 5 years. I would say a large portion of the Panthers belief in him was due to his playoff experience and his game winning goal.

I still can’t believe that contract is real, because he then scored 23 points in 53 games with the Panthers this past season. This is the same Dave Bolland that has hit the 40 point mark once in his career. Winning can get you anywhere, and it’s a huge bonus if you scored a big goal or two.

So out of four comparables I can think of, only Ward turned out to be fine. His cap hit was actually average, and he played well for the Capitals this season. However, with these sort of things he looks like the exception, not the rule. Also, $3 million isn’t that big of a cap hit, but Beleskey might be getting north of $5 million.

May I remind you of his career stats, which are conveniently right in front of you:

For those of you that can’t do amazing mental math, that’s an average of 28 points a season. Twenty. Eight. He’s turning 27 years old, and he has shown nothing over the course of his career that he is a top six forward. Would I like him on my team? Yes of course, he seems like a perfect fit for a third line. But I’m not giving him the market price for his contract in a million years.

Ottawa is strapped for cash already, plus they have much bigger needs on defense

He has had a great playoffs for Anaheim, but it’s 14 games. Players have good 14 game stretches all the time. Also, he has 7 goals but only 1 assist. So it’s not encouraging that he isn’t getting any assists, because his 17.5 % shooting percentage will surely go down to around his career average of 9.9% as well.

I have to reiterate this once more, because I don’t want people to put words in my mouth: Beleskey is a fine player. I like him, but not for the price of $5 million. Ottawa is strapped for cash already, plus they have much bigger needs on defense. Also, they could get a much better legitimate top six forward who is also cheaper.

If Bryan Murray really is looking for a top six forward, Matt Beleskey is clearly not the answer.

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