The NHL offseason is synonymous with uncertainty. There is usually speculation based off of a hunch but as is often the case, only time will tell. The Anaheim Ducks and pending unrestricted free agent Matt Beleskey are at the center of this uncertain speculation.
First there was a report from ESPN’s Craig Custance that claimed Matt Beleskey would likely re-sign with the Ducks before July 1st. This report seemed to be fitting as Beleskey has spent his entire career in Anaheim and a new contract appeared to be very possible.
But then came the report this morning from TSN’s Darren Dreger who stated that Beleskey will likely test free agency. This report was confirmed by Eric Stephens, the man who covers the Ducks for the OC Register and has been doing so for a very long time. This report is very trustworthy.
So what are we supposed to make of these polar opposite reports?
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Well, the report by Custance was no doubt an accurate one at the time, but as we have seen happen so many times before, things likely changed. Agreeing to all the terms of a new deal is never easy and it is quite possible that Beleskey’s agent and the Ducks hit a road block. They could have been close to a new deal and they might still be close to a new deal, but with Dreger’s recent report we can now assume that Beleskey and the Ducks are no longer seeing eye to eye.
Beleskey had an incredible season and it is likely that his agent is using that as leverage. Beleskey deserves a raise but he may be asking for more money than Ducks general manager Bob Murray is willing to give him. Murray has never been a GM who is willing to overpay a player and it is likely that he will not start now.
This all boils down to one burning question, how much does Bob Murray value Matt Beleskey’s contribution to the Anaheim Ducks?
Beleskey was vital to the Ducks success this past season but he should not be overpaid. If the asking price is to high then Murray should let Beleskey walk. If that is how this plays out and he hits the open market on July 1st then Murray and the Ducks will have nearly $20 Million in cap space, enough money to sing/trade for 2 Matt Beleskey replacements. Giving Beleskey anything north of $4 Million per year (likely what he is asking for) hurts the Ducks chances to improve their roster in other areas.
Another thought that has likely crossed Murray’s mind is whether or not he feels that last year’s first round pick, Nick Ritchie, is ready to be an everyday NHL player. If Beleskey walks away in free agency it would clear a roster spot at left wing. Nick Ritchie just happens to be a left winger and a prototypical Ducks type of player, big and skilled. He lit it up during the OHL playoffs with 13 goals and 26 points in 14 games, his great hands and fantastic shot may earn him a chance to be a top 6 forward for the Ducks next season if Beleskey is no longer around. Ritchie’s arrival to Anaheim as a Beleskey replacement would allow Murray and the Ducks to use their $20 Million in cap space to improve their roster elsewhere, adding a veteran defensemen maybe? Since cheap young talent seems to be the latest trend in the NHL these days (just ask Steve Yzerman and the Tampa Bay Lightning) Ritchie could solve a lot of post-Beleskey problems.
So we can assume that as of now Beleskey is going test the open market in free agency and he will probably be overpaid by a desperate team looking for a goal scorer. With some great prospects ready to make the jump to the NHL and an abundance of cap space near $20 Million, watching Beleskey walk away might be in Murray and the Ducks best interests. With just a little over a week remaining until the free agency period begins, things should get very interesting for Beleskey and the Ducks.
Magic 8 ball…. will the Ducks re-sign Matt Beleskey?………
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